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Translated  from  the  French  by 
G.  A.  PFISTER  and  E.  S.  KEMP 






Copyright,    1931,    by    Harper    & 

Brothers.    Printed  in   the    United 

States  of  America 









Chapter  I 

Chapter  II 













Vj?%.  i»  -  **h  *#*■  ^awC  Mt*w  /*•  ^<l  ^  -i^«i  .AwrT 


I.  Goethe,  by  J.  K.  Stiegler 

~l.  Beethoven,  by  August  Kloeber 

3.  Christiana  Goethe,  Bust  by  Weisser  (1811) 

4.  Beethoven,  Bust  by  Franz  Klein  (i8ii) 

5.  Mendelssohn  as  a  Child,  Drawing  by  Hensel 

6.  Goethe,  by  Ferdinand  Jagemann  (1817) 

7.  View  of  Teplitz  (Bohemia) 

8.  9,  10.  One  of  three  lieder  (Opus  83)  dedicated  by 

Beethoven  to  Goethe  (18 10) — Wonne  der  Wehmut 
(The  Ecstasy  of  Grief) 

11.  Page  of  Manuscript  from  Egmont  (reduced) 

iz,  13.  Views  of  Marienbad,  after  Prints  of  the  Time 

14.  Beethoven,  a  Mask  by  Franz  Klein  (1811) 

15.  Autograph  of  Goethe.  A  weekly  schedule  of  the 

Hoftheater  of  Weimar  announcing  the  perform- 
ances of  Fidelio.  (Unpublished  collection  of  Ro- 
main  Rolland) 

16.  A  Page  of  the  Manuscript  of  Egmont 

17.  Zelter,  by  P.  J.  Bardon 

18.  Marianna  von  Willemer.  A  pastel  (1819) 

19.  Goethe,  Bust  by  Klauer 

io.  Goethe,  by  K.  Ch.  Vogel  von  Vogelstein 










VIII  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

xi.  Beethoven,  by  Malher  (1814  or  1815)  75 

zz.  Maria  Szymanowska,  Lithograph  by  Harlingue  78 

13.  Goethe,  by  C.  O.  Kipinski  8z 

24.  Ulrike  von  Levetzow  86 

Z5.  Goethe,  Mask  by  Johann  Gottfried  Schadow  (1816)  116 

z6.  Goethe's  Study  12.6 

2.j.  The  Juno  Room;  Goethe's  Home  iz6 

2.8.  View  of  Weimar,  after  a  Print  of  the  Time  14Z 
Z9.  Goethe  on  His  Death  Bed,  Drawing  by  Friedrich 

Preller  151 

30.  Goethe's  Death  Chamber  156 

31.  The  Palace  of  the  Ducal  Family  Where  Goethe  Was 

Often  Received  156 

3Z.  Bettina,  after  a  Portrait  of  Her  as  a  Young  Girl  176 
33.  Bettina,  Drawing  by  Emil  Grimm  (Probably  about 

1807)  i8z 



The  Springs  at  Marienbad  iii 

Goethe's  Summer-house  at  Weimar  xvii 

Beethoven  (About  182.0)  Drawing  by  Tejcek  2. 

Goethe's  Birthplace  at  Frankfurt- am-Main  3 

Beethoven  (1813)  Drawing  by  von  Lifer  38 

Teplitz.  A  View  of  the  Park  39 

Goethe  (18 10)  Drawing  by  Friedr.  Wilh.  Riemer  74 

Goethe's  House  at  Weimar  75 

Christiana  Goethe,  Drawing  by  Goethe  96 

Teplitz.  The  Entrance  to  Schlossgarten  (The  Garden 

of  the  Chateau)  97 

Silhouette  of  Goethe  before  the  Bust  of  a  Dead  Friend 

(About  1780)  160 

Weimar.   Chateau  Tiefurt.   The  Summer  Residence  of 

the  Court,  Often  Frequented  by  Goethe  161 

Translator's  Prefatory  Note 

Of  the  two  giants,  Goethe  and  Beethoven,  who  are 
the  subject  of  this  book,  Beethoven  is  probably  far 
better  known  to  the  English-speaking  public  than 

There  are  two  reasons  for  this.  Beethoven  addresses 
the  world  in  the  language  of  music,  a  universal  lan- 
guage, which  can  be  understood  by  many  who  have 
not  made  even  an  elementary  study  of  it.  There  is 
hardly  a  concert-goer  in  the  world  who  has  not  heard 
Beethoven's  symphonies  or  sonatas,  or  who  has  had  no 
opportunity  of  feeling  the  influence  of  that  mighty 
composer.  The  second  reason  is  that  there  are  many 
more  people  who,  as  amateur  or  professional  musi- 
cians, have  formed  a  closer  acquaintance  with  Bee- 
thoven than  that  of  mere  hearing.  They  have  played 
his  works,  analyzed  them,  interpreted  them,  and  often 
enough,  attracted  by  his  work,  have  enquired  into  his 
life  and  his  psychology.  They  have  found  at  their 
disposal  a  comprehensive  mass  of  literature,  easily 
accessible;  they  have  read  of  him  in  critical  essays 
published  in  the  press.  And  Ernest  Newman's  excel- 
lent translation  of  Romain  Rolland's  Beethoven:  the 

Creator  has  given  those  who  read  it,  a  deep  insight 
into  the  composer's  greatness. 

Not  so  with  Goethe.  To  understand  and  appreciate 
him  is  reserved  to  the  comparatively  small  community 
which  has  a  perfect  knowledge  of  German,  for  no 
translation  can  do  him  justice.  And  those  who  do  not 
know  any  of  his  works  lack  the  interest  which  would 
prompt  them  to  enquire  into  the  great  poet's  life, 
thought,  work,  and  influence. 

Yet  Goethe,  the  Olympian,  as  he  is  often  called, 
was  one  of  the  greatest  figures  in  literature  which  the 
world  has  known.  He  ranks  with  Homer,  Virgil, 
Dante,  and  Shakespeare.  Like  these  he  belongs  to  the 
world  rather  than  to  a  particular  nation  or  race.  He 
is,  in  literature,  what  Michelangelo  and  Raphael  were 
in  the  realm  of  art,  a  sovereign  master. 

And,  just  as  Michelangelo  was  supreme  in  every 
branch  of  his  gteat  art — painting,  frescoes  and  archi- 
tecture— so  did  Goethe  excel  in  all  that  belongs  to 
literature,  from  the  short  epigtam,  the  sonnet,  and  the 
Lied,  through  the  ballad  and  the  descriptive  poem  to 
that  mighty  work  Faust  which  has  only  one  equal, 
Dante's  Divina  Comedia.  For  Faust  is  not  only  a  poem 
of  gteat  beauty  and  a  dtamatic  wotk  of  magnificent 
consttuction,  but  a  deep  psychological  study  of  man 
and    human   natuie.    Goethe's    dramatic   works   are 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^=  XI 

equally  great.  From  comedy,  even  farcical  comedy,  to 
great  tragedies,  such  as,  apart  from  himself,  only 
Shakespeare  has  given  to  the  world,  he  mastered  every 
conceivable  form.  And  in  prose  writing — romance, 
travel  description,  etc. — he  was  as  great  and  as  pro- 
found as  he  was  in  verse  and  drama. 

Nor  is  that  all.  Goethe,  who  was  not  only  a  genius 
in  literature,  but  a  universal  genius,  perhaps  the  last  of 
the  few  to  whom  this  title  may  justly  be  given,  was 
also  a  philosopher,  a  diplomat,  a  statesman,  a  scientist, 
an  architect,  and,  as  this  book  shows,  a  musician.  And 
in  all  these  realms  he  was  a  creator  of  the  highest 
standard.  His  civil  code,  his  works  on  colours,  on 
botany  (he  was  a  forerunner  of  Darwin)  made  his- 
tory. He  was  also  more  than  an  amateur  in  the  art  of 

In  this  respect,  then,  Goethe  was  more  eminent  than 
even  Dante,  who,  like  Leonardo  da  Vinci  and  Michel- 
angelo, had  mastered  several  branches  of  knowledge 
and  art.  And  in  this  he  surpassed  Shakespeare,  too. 

Goethe's  striking  personality,  both  as  a  poet  and  as 
a  man,  could  not  fail  to  attract  many  women  who,  in 
their  turn,  inspired  him  to  some  of  his  finest  work. 
Many  of  them — though  by  no  means  all — are  men- 
tioned in  this  book.  They  were  of  the  most  varying 
types:  Friederike,  the  pastor  of  Sesenheim's  charming 

XII  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

child;  Frau  von  Stein,  the  beautiful  and  highly  intel- 
lectual aristocrat;  and  Christiana,  the  fat,  red-faced, 
uneducated  housekeeper,  whom  he  finally  married. 
The  procession  of  women  extended  throughout  his 
long  life,  from  youth  to  old  age,  when,  a  widower  of 
seventy-nine,  he  wanted  to  marry  a  girl  of  nineteen 
with  whom  he  had  fallen  in  love. 

But  among  all  these  there  was  none  upon  whom 
Goethe  had  such  a  lasting  influence,  none  whose  in- 
fluence upon  Goethe  was  more  durable,  and  none,  per- 
haps, who  understood  the  poet  better  than  Bettina  von 
Arnim-Brentano,  the  writer,  musician,  and  champion 
of  political  freedom,  the  great  dreamer  and  great 

If  Bettina  had  a  deep  insight  into  Goethe's  gigantic 
mind,  she  had  an  equally  clear  understanding  of  one 
who  was  his  peer  as  no  other,  Beethoven.  It  was  she 
who  formed  the  link  between  these  two,  influencing 
the  poet,  championing  the  composer,  appreciating  both 
with  a  clairvoyance  such  as  probably  no  other  of  their 
contemporaries  has  shown.  To  her  also  a  great  part  of 
the  present  book  is  devoted. 

Romain  Rolland  tells  us  of  many  occasions  on  which 
Goethe,  after  arduous  planning  and  working,  aban- 
doned what  he  had  set  out  to  do.  We  read  of  failure, 
defeat,  and  wasted  time  and  energy.  This  only  shows 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  XIII 
that  the  great  man's  colossal  work  did  not  exhaust  the 
still  vaster  possibilities  of  his  creative  mind.  Fate  was 
kind  to  him  in  many  ways,  but  he  had  nevertheless  a 
fair  share  of  trials  and  disappointments.  Had  he  been 
granted  the  fulfilment  of  all  that  he  conceived  and 
undertook,  then  indeed  he  would  have  been  the  king 
amongst  supermen. 

Romain  Rolland's  work,  Goethe  and  Beethoven, 
will,  it  is  hoped,  be  appreciated  for  the  new  light 
which  it  throws  upon  the  relations  of  the  two  masters. 
It  should  prove  also  an  inspiration  to  a  wider  and 
keener  knowledge  of  two  of  the  greatest  men  the 
world  has  ever  known. 

G.  A.  P. 
E.  S.  K. 

Note  of  Acknowledgments 

The  author  and  the  publishers  hereby  extend  thanks 
to  all  those  who  have  assisted  in  the  preparation  of  this 
volume.  As  in  the  case  of  Beethoven:  the  Creator, 
we  have  everywhere  encountered  the  greatest  spirit  of 
cooperation,  the  most  efficient  aid. 

We  take  pleasure  in  expressing  our  gratitude 

To  professor  Max  Hecker,  Director  of  the  Goethe 
and  Schiller  Archives  of  Weimar,  who  has  given  us 
permission  to  reproduce  one  of  the  three  Lieder  dedi- 
cated by  Beethoven  to  Goethe; 

To  Professor  Johannes  Wolf,  Director  of  the  Prus- 
sian State  Library  of  Berlin,  who  entrusted  to  us,  for 
purposes  of  reproduction,  two  pages  of  the  manuscript 
of  Egmont; 

To  the  Director  of  the  Frankfurt  Museum,  from 
whom  we  obtained  the  little  known  portrait  of  Bettina 
as  a  girl. 

We  owe  a  special  vote  of  thanks  to  Professor  Anton 
Kippenberg,  the  eminent  Director  of  the  Insel-Verlag, 
who  has  more  than  once  given  us  the  benefit  of  his 
valuable  advice  and  has  allowed  us  to  reproduce  several 
items  from  his  private  collection,  among  them:  the 

XVI  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

letter  from  Beethoven  to  Zelter,  the  views  of  Weimar, 
Teplitz  and  Marienbad  which  illustrate  this  volume, 
the  portrait  of  Goethe  by  C.  O.  Kipinsky,  the  sketch  of 
Goethe  on  his  deathbed  by  Friedrich  Preller,  etc. 

We  are  indebted  also  to  Dr.  Eugen  Rentsch,  Director 
of  the  Rotapfel-Verlag,  and  to  Professor  Max  Fried- 
laender,  the  eminent  historian  and  musicologist,  who 
have  shown  a  ready  willingness  to  assist  us. 

To  all  of  them  our  sincere  thanks. 


I  have  compared  the  writing  of  my  book,  Beethoven: 
the  Creator ■,  to  a  journey  to  the  depths  of  Cyclops' 
smithy.  When  an  old  man  like  myself,  who  can  count 
more  than  sixty  years,  embarks  on  travels  as  laborious 
as  these,  prudence  suggests  that  he  should  not  linger 
by  the  way,  but  make  straight  for  the  goal. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  journey's  end  never  con- 
cerns me  very  much:  it  is  the  road  which  interests  me 
if  only  it  lie  in  the  right  direction.  I  never  hurry. 
Poor  creature  that  I  am,  existing  since  childhood's  days 
under  the  ever-present  threat  of  a  life  to  be  cut  short, 
I  have  always  lived  as  if  a  hundred  years  were  my 
span — or  as  if  I  must  die  tomorrow.  It  matters  little 
to  me.  The  essential  thing  is  the  completion  of  the 
task  to  which  my  hand  is  set. 

XVIII  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

On  my  Beethoven  exploration,  many  a  wayfarer 
has  stopped  me  on  the  way;  he  has  much  to  tell  me 
and  my  ears  are  always  open:  I  was  born  to  be  the 
confidant  both  of  the  living  and  of  the  dead.  .  .  . 
Here  are  two  whose  lives  were  entwined  with  Bee- 
thoven's. One  is  Bettina,  wild  yet  wise,  a  dreamer  all 
her  life;  yet  the  eyes  of  the  sleep-walker  beheld  Bee- 
thoven and  Holderlin,  the  men  of  genius  whom  their 
keenest  contemporaries  disowned.  It  was  Bettina  who 
foresaw  the  great  revolutions.  The  other  is  Goethe, 
the  teacher  and  comrade  of  every  day  of  my  life.  In 
his  works  without  number  I  have  sought  constant 
counsel  since  I  was  thirty  years  old,  just  as  in  the 
old  days,  when  the  shadows  lengthened  and  the  mind 
turned  to  its  secrets,  men  used  to  open  the  family 
Bible.  (You  remember  Faust,  silent  and  meditative, 
in  the  twilight  of  his  chamber.) 

Goethe  has  never  sent  me  away  thirsty,  or  depressed 
me  with  long-dead  principles.  His  were  no  abstract 
ideas,  no  a  priori  notions;  he  poured  out  a  stream  of 
lively  and  novel  experiences,  nature's  spring,  in  which 
my  youth  was  renewed.  They  are  but  few,  even  among 
the  men  of  genius,  whose  souls  commune  unceasingly 
with  the  Spirit  of  the  Earth,  the  Erdgeist.  Goethe  and 
Beethoven  were  two  of  the  chosen  of  the  Great 
Mother.  But  the  one,  he  who  was  deaf,  hearkened 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  XIX 

without  understanding  to  the  call  from  the  depths, 
while  the  other  beheld  all,  but  heard  part  only.  Bet- 
tina  accompanies  the  two;  intoxicated  with  dreamy 
visions  and  with  love,  she  sees  and  hears  nothing, 
groping  for  the  path,  stretching  out  her  feverish 
fingers  into  the  darkness. 

To  the  readers  of  my  Beethoven  I  offer  this  respite 
in  my  Odyssey  upon  what  I  have  called  that  inner  sea 
of  Beethoven,  begging  them  to  rest  awhile  with  me 
as  Odysseus  did  in  the  land  of  Alcinous. 

In  these  hurried  times  I  love  to  breathe  quietly  as 
I  lie  outstretched  in  the  valley  of  Villeneuve,*  my 
hands  clasped  under  my  head,  beneath  the  flowering 
cherry  trees,  on  a  day  of  the  new-born  spring.  I  gaze 
upon  the  vault  of  heaven  and  the  changeless  course 
of  the  centuries.  ...  I  recall  talks  in  the  Bohemian 
forest,  Teplitz,  the  twin  deities  Goethe  and  Beethoven, 
and  the  love-lorn  elegy  of  Bettina,  "Nina,  love's  mad- 
dened victim." 

Four  essays  compose  this  book.  The  first  and  the 
longest  was  once  published  in  the  review  Euro  pa;  I 
have  revised  and  completed  it.  The  three  others  deal 
with  the  same  subject,  but  present  it  from  other  points 
of  view.  Goethe's  life  was  like  an  arrow  shot  from  a 

*  Translator's  Note — Romain  Rolland's  villa  is  at  Villeneuve,  Switzerland. 

XX  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
bow,  which,  once  loosed,  cannot  be  stayed  in  its  flight 
to  the  ever  receding  target.  The  problem  of  that  life 
is  so  vast  even  now,  a  hundred  years  after  his  death, 
and  remains  so  fresh  and  vital,  that  truth,  as  I  think, 
invites  me  to  retain  the  freedom  of  presentment  which 
I  have  displayed  in  these  independent  studies.  In  this 
way  alone  can  I  hope  to  follow  the  wonderful  plas- 
ticity of  the  great  model. 

Music,  I  repeat,  is  the  heroine  of  my  story.  I  present 
her  here  not  only  as  the  companion  of  Beethoven- 
Dionysus,  but  as  a  Muse  also;  to  Goethe,  the  Apollo 
of  Weimar,  she  is  not  the  least  beloved  of  the  Muses, 
a  fact  too  little  known.  The  main  object  of  my  book 
is  to  remind  my  hearers  that  the  greatest  poet  of  mod- 
ern Europe  belongs  also  to  the  fellowship  of  musi- 
cians. He  is  the  river  into  which  the  twain  converge, 
into  which  flow  the  twin  streams  of  poetry  and  music, 
as  do  indeed  all  the  streams  of  our  Earth. 

April  15th,  1930  Romain  Rolland 



1811,  1812.  ...  Autumn,  the  bountiful,  with  her 
vintage.  The  golden  hues  of  the  forest,  the  blazing 
sunset  sky.  The  last  days  of  love's  autumnal  splen- 
dour.1 And  the  brief  encounter  of  the  two  suns,  Bee- 
thoven and  Goethe.  For  centuries  destiny  had  been 
shaping  the  converging  course  of  these  two  planets 
of  poetry  and  music.  The  meeting  was  soon  over; 
the  hour  which  had  struck  was  quickly  past.  They 
met,  they  parted  to  follow  each  his  course.  Must  we 
wait  a  thousand  years  yet  for  such  another  meeting? 
Happy  were  the  eyes  which  beheld  them.  I  look  into 
these  eyes  to  fathom  the  scenes  that  dwell  there.  In 
the  bosom  of  the  lake  the  reflection  of  parting  day  may 
yet  be  seen. 

Though  separated,  they  had  long  known  each  other. 

But  their  knowledge  was  not  equal;  it  was  Beethoven 
who  knew  the  other  better. 

From  his  earliest  days  he  had  steeped  his  mind  in 
Goethe's  works.  He  worshipped  him,2  he  read  Goethe 
every  day.  Goethe  had  taken  the  place  which  Klop- 
stock  had  once  filled  in  his  heart. 

"Klopstock  always  prays  for  death,  and  indeed  he 
died  soon  enough,  but  Goethe  lives  and  we  must  all 
live  with  him.  That  is  why  he  is  so  easy  to  set  to 
music.  No  writer  may  be  set  to  music  so  readily."3 

In  his  first  conversation  with  Bettina  in  May,  1810, 
he  had  told  her  how  much  Goethe's  poems  fascinated 
him,  "not  only  by  their  contents,  but  also  by  their 
rhythm.  This  language,  composed  after  the  noblest 
design,  like  an  edifice  erected  by  spirit  hands,  drives 
me,  exalts  me  to  write  music.  The  secret  of  the  har- 
monies is  engrafted  in  it." 

Bettina  finds  him  aflame  with  the  fire  of  inspiration 
which  gave  to  the  world  two  Goethe  Lieder,  and  what 
Liederl  What  music!  Trocknet  nicht,  Thranen!  ("Dry 
not,  oh  tears")  and  Mignon. 

During  the  same  year  he  wrote  the  music  to  Eg- 
monty  and  since  1808  he  had  been  thinking  of  setting 
Faust  to  music. 

"To  set  to  music"  a  poem  was  not  for  him,  as  for 
most  composers,  a  labour  of  representation,  a  pic- 

turesque  commentary  on  the  words  of  the  poem.  It 
was  a  deep  penetration  of  the  verse,  an  intimate  in- 
termingling, as  it  were,  of  body  and  soul.  It  has  not 
been  sufficiently  recognized  that  his  words  on  the  pur- 
suit of  melody,  as  reported  by  Bettina,  refer  actually 
to  his  attempts  to  fathom  those  of  Goethe's  thoughts 
which  he  desired  to  fuse  with  music. 

"I  must  set  myself  therefore  at  the  very  focal  point 
of  enthusiasm;  thence  shall  mighty  discharges  of  mel- 
ody flash  forth  far  and  near5  (Da  muss  ich  denn  von 
dem  Brennpunkt  der  Begeisterung  die  Melodie  nach 
alien  Seiten  ausladen). 

"Melody!  I  pursue  her,  I  clasp  her  with  new  fire,  she 
slips  from  me,  is  lost  in  the  midst  of  vague  impressions. 
Soon,  driven  by  surging  passions,  I  seize  her  again.  I 
cannot  loose  myself  from  her,  I  must  perpetuate  her  in 
a  spasm  of  ecstasy  with  every  urge  of  soul  and  body. 
And  then,  at  the  last,  I  triumph  over  her,  I  possess  her 
whom  I  have  pursued,  for  whom  I  have  longed.  And, 
behold — a  symphony.  .  .  .  Yes,  music  is  in  very  truth 
the  mediator  between  the  life  of  the  senses  and  the  life 
of  the  spirit  (J a,  Musik  ist  so  recht  die  V ermittelung 
des  geistigen  Lebens  zum  Sinnlichen).  I  long  to  talk 
of  this  to  Goethe.  Would  he  understand  me?" 

He  declares  "Melody  is  the  sensual  life  of  poetry 
(Melodie  ist  das  sinnliche  Leben  der  Poesie).  Is  it 

not  through  melody  that  the  indwelling  spirit  of  the 
poem  permeates  our  being?  Does  not  the  melody  of 
Mignon  convey  to  us  the  whole  sensual  atmosphere 
(Stimmung)  of  the  Lied?6  And  since  our  senses  have 
responded  to  this  impression,  do  they  not  react  to  it, 
are  they  not  fired  with  a  passion  to  continue  their 
creative  work?"  .  .  . 

Here  Bettina  attributes  to  Beethoven  the  intuition 
of  a  musical  subconsciousness  a  thousand  times  deeper 
and  vaster  than  the  thought  expressed  by  these  words, 
stamping  him  thus  as  a  forerunner  of  Schopenhauer 
and  Wagner. 

He  turns  again  to  Goethe,  and  his  appeal  becomes 
more  insistent: 

"Speak  to  Goethe  of  me;  tell  him  that  he  must  hear 
my  symphonies!  He  will  agree  with  me  that  music  is 
the  single,  the  immaterial  entry  into  a  higher  world 
of  knowledge  which  envelops  man  but  which  he  can- 
not understand.  .  .  .  What  the  soul  receives  from 
music  through  the  senses  is  spiritual  revelation  incar- 
nate. ...  It  is  thus,  if  you  understand  me,  that  you 
must  write  of  me  to  Goethe!  .  .  .  With  all  my  heart 
I  long  for  him  to  teach  me." 

But  here,  before  resuming  our  way,  we  must  stay  a 
moment,  and  weigh  the  value  of  Bettina's  testimony. 

Although  I  cannot  in  this  essay  attempt  to  solve  the 
enigma  of  this  extraordinary  woman,  of  whom  I  shall 
try  to  give  a  more  detailed  account  elsewhere,7  I  must 
sketch  for  the  reader  an  outline  at  least  of  the  basic 
facts  of  the  problem,  and  add  the  conclusions  which 
I  have  reached. 

We  are  now  able  to  get  a  clear  view  of  her  mind. 
Some  years  ago  her  authentic  correspondence  with 
Goethe  was  published.  Critical  essayists  have  compared 
very  carefully  the  wording  of  these  letters.8  In  spite  of 
gaps  due  to  the  disappearance  of  important  letters,  it  is 
possible  for  us  today,  especially  as  to  the  period  which 
concerns  us,  definitely  to  sift  certainties  from  possi- 
bilities, possibilities  from  errors  or  inventions.  The 
enigma  of  Bettina  then  no  longer  exists  save  for  those 
who  fail  to  understand  the  soul  of  women,  or  who 
lack  the  gift  of  that  sympathy  without  which  the  doors 
of  intelligence  can  never  open. 

No,  she  was  in  no  way  a  "Sibyl  of  the  North," 
as  some  of  the  modern  historians  have  called  the 
little  Bettina  Brentano  of  1807  to  1810!  When  we 
describe  a  character,  we  must  define  clearly  the  period 
of  which  we  speak;  nothing  remains  constant  during 
the  course  of  a  life  time,  least  of  all  with  a  woman 
like  Bettina,  the  slave  of  her  own  wild  and  tender 

8  ^^ 

Later,  the  features  will  alter,  age  will  stamp  them 
with  many  a  wrinkle,  and  the  youthful  smile  will  lose 
its  charm.  And  Goethe's  eyes  did  not  look  upon  her 
with  the  same  favour  in  1825  as  they  did  in  1807. — 
But  here  we  are  concerned  with  the  little  Mignon,  from 
her  twentieth  to  her  twenty-fifth  year.9 

A  Mignon  she  appeared  to  her  intimate  friends, 
and  to  Goethe  when  they  first  met.  And  that  is  hov\r 
she  sees  herself,  as  soon  as  she  meets  Mignon  in  Wil- 
helm  Meister.  She  identifies  herself  with  the  character 
of  Mignon,  with  her  longing  (Sehnsucht),  her  fate, 
"with  everything,"  she  says  "except  with  her  death"; 
for  the  demon  of  life  possessed  her. 

She  is  small  of  stature,  with  a  pale  complexion,  dark 
eyes  like  deep  pools,  and  a  mass  of  black  curls.10 
Usually  she  wears  a  long  trailing  black  dress,  with 
a  thick  cord  round  her  waist,  like  a  pilgrim;  she  is 
independent  of  fashion  and  utterly  unable  to  conform 
to  the  correctitude  of  polite  society;  she  feels  awk- 
ward on  a  chair,  and  is  usually  to  be  found  crouching 
on  a  low  stool,  or  perched  in  a  window  recess.  She 
bubbles  with  life  and  laughter,  or  is  lost  in  the  deepest 
melancholy;  she  is  fundamentally  a  great  dreamer,  to 
whom  life  is  but  a  vision. 

Young  Alois  Bihler,  who  drew  this  portrait  of 
Bettina11  at  the  moment  when  she  was  about  to  meet 

Beethoven,  could  not  sufficiently  idolize  and  admire 
this  charming  girl — the  riches  of  her  mind,  the  bounti- 
ful spring  of  her  fancy,  her  poetical  passion,  her  natu- 
ral grace,  and  the  kindness  of  her  heart.  She  was  then 
twenty- five,  but  appeared  to  be  only  eighteen,  or  twenty 
at  most;  there  was  in  her  nothing  false,  nothing  mean: 
she  displayed  a  generosity  without  limit,  of  both  mind 
and  heart,  and  spontaneity  without  compare. 

1810.  .  .  .  It  is  the  year  when  Goethe,  for  long  very 
reserved,  is  most  in  love  with  her,  for  he,  too,  has  been 
unable  to  resist  her  charms.12  It  is  the  year,  too,  when 
she  feels  nearest  to  him  and  loves  him  utterly.  Her 
whole  existence  is  permeated  with  a  passion  for 
Goethe,  dazzling  and  self-sufficing,  a  passion  sealed 
with  the  mystical  ring  which,  at  their  first  meeting,  he 
had  been  rash  enough  to  put  on  her  finger.  Her  letters 
of  January  and  February,  1810,  show  that  she  was 
entirely  absorbed  in  him,  like  the  lovelorn  Teresa  of 
Avila.  Nor  must  we  think  that  Goethe  wearied  of 
this  excessive  adoration.  He  lapped  it  up,  as  a  cat  laps 
up  sweetened  milk.  Not  only  does  he  thank  Bettina 
for  her  love  (February,  1810),  but,  having  received  no 
renewed  protestations  of  affection  for  a  whole  month, 
he  becomes  uneasy  and  asks  for  them  (May  10,  1810). 
He  never  parts  with  Bettina's  letters;  he  takes  them 
with  him  on  his  travels. 

10  ^ 

Now,  it  is  in  these  circumstances  that  Bettina  meets 
Beethoven  for  the  first  time.  For  what  reason,  unless 
at  the  call  of  an  imperious  sincerity,  should  she  have 
written  to  Goethe  that  she  had  fallen  in  love  with 
Beethoven  and  that  he  had  vanquished  her?  Why  else 
should  she  passionately  have  espoused  Beethoven's 
cause,  a  course  which — as  she  might  well  have  known, 
and  in  fact  did  discover  later  on — was  by  no  means 
to  Goethe's  liking. 

Let  me  first  continue  the  famous  story  which  Bettina 
published  years  later.13 

She  had  been  staying  for  some  time  in  Vienna  with 
her  brother,  Franz  Brentano,  who  had  married  Toni 
Birkenstock.  The  young  couple  were  both  faithful 
friends  of  Beethoven  and  kept  up  the  noble  traditions 
of  art  and  learning  of  father-in-law  Birkenstock,  the 
friend  of  Franklin  and  Robertson.  It  was  the  month 
of  May,  a  beautiful  May,  aflame  with  sunshine;  Bet- 
tina's  letters  to  Goethe  are  full  of  the  splendour  of 
gardens  in  flower,  of  the  overpowering  fragrance  of 
the  glass  houses  all  open  to  the  air.14 

Bettina  had  heard  one  of  Beethoven's  sonatas  which 
had  overwhelmed  her;15  she  longs  to  meet  the  com- 
poser. Everybody  tries  to  dissuade  her.  Beethoven,  they 
say,  is  unapproachable;  no  one  even  knows  where  he 
lives.  Bettina,  more  than  ever  determined,  takes  the 




1  J^M             -*-"*•           V  *J  '  wtk 


9^                         -9m 


r           M      \ 




=  11 

risk.  She  finds  the  house;  she  enters.16  He  is  seated  at 
the  piano  and  does  not  see  her.  She  bends  over  him, 
whispering  into  his  ear,  "I  am  Betty  Brentano."  He 
turns  round  suddenly  and  sees  this  pretty  girl  with 
wide-open  eyes  which  pierce  his  very  thoughts;  he  notes 
her  intense  sympathy,  her  burning  cheeks,  when  he  sings 
to  her  "Kennst  du  das  Land"  her  throbbing  soul,  her 
fervent  enthusiasm.  How  could  he  have  resisted  her? 
She  was  equally  captivated.  In  fact  much  more  so 
than  he. 

"When  1  saw  him,  I  forgot  the  whole  world. 
When  I  remember  our  meeting,  the  world  van- 
ishes, .  .  .  vanishes.  .  .  .  " 

She  is  so  possessed  by  Beethoven  that  this  giant,  with 
his  terrible  loneliness,  has  become  part  of  her;  she 
shares  the  desert  with  him,  and  when  the  hot  wind 
sears  her  she  seeks  refuge  in  the  gentle  affection  and 
the  fatherly  tenderness  of  Goethe.  Psycho-analysts 
should  study  the  whole  beginning  of  this  letter  to 
Goethe  (in  the  Briefwechsel  of  1835).  It  contains  in- 
deed a  striking  "mediumistic"  phenomenon.  Bettina's 
mind  was  one  peculiarly  susceptible  to  the  electric11 
waves  of  other  minds  heavily  charged  with  genius.  The 
word  electricity  recurs  often  in  her  conversation  with 

12  = 

Now  she  was  fortunate  in  surprising  Beethoven  in 
the  throes  of  a  passionate  crisis,  in  the  grip  of  a  creative 
trance,  a  "raptus,"  as  he  called  it  next  day  when  she 
reminded  him  of  what  he  had  said.18 

These  conversations  became  the  rule,  for  Beethoven, 
fascinated,  would  not  let  Bettina  go,  accompanied  her 
to  the  Brentanos'  house,  took  her  for  walks;  Bettina, 
enraptured  too,  forgot  everybody  and  everything  but 
Beethoven —  "Society,  the  picture  galleries,  the  the- 
atres, and  even  the  spire  of  St.  Stephen's  Cathe- 
dral. ..."  Their  discussions  were  on  serious  matters, 
a  fact  which  later  on  Schindler  doubted  on  the  some- 
what puerile  ground  that  Beethoven  had  never  men- 
tioned it  to  him.  But  Schindler  was  not  Bettina.  When 
Beethoven,  in  his  old  age,  addressed  him,  what  he  saw 
was  the  gloomy,  obsequious  face  of  his  famulus,  whose 
invariable  complaint  was,  "It's  raining."19  Famuli  do 
not  inspire  poets;  they  must  be  content  with  prose! 

However,  I  am  reserving  the  discussion  of  those  of 
Beethoven's  thoughts  which  Bettina  reports,  to  another 
essay  dealing  more  particularly  with  music.  What  con- 
cerns us  here,  in  our  history  of  the  relations  between 
Goethe  and  Beethoven,  is  whether  the  facts  are  true 
and  Bettina's  impressions  sincere.  There  is  no  room 
for  doubt  either  of  the  one  or  of  the  other.  Apart 
from  Bettina's  letters  to  Goethe  (in  the  Briefwechsel 

=  13 

of  1835)  and  to  Prince  Hermann  von  PUckler-Muskau, 
the  text  of  which  can  be  questioned  because  they  were 
published  so  much  later,  the  letter  to  young  Alois 
Bihler,  of  July  9,  1810,  which  is  undoubtedly  authen- 
tic, establishes  the  truth  of  her  meeting  with  Beethoven 
and  the  shattering  impressions  which  he  made  on  her. 
He  was  extremely  ugly,  and  this  struck  Bettina,  who 
loved  beauty  above  everything,  more  than  any  other 
woman;  she  could  never  really  love  Beethoven.  Never- 
theless, she  was  fascinated  from  the  first  moment,  and 
remained  so  to  the  end — tflch  habe  diesen  Mann  un- 
endlich  lieb  gewonnen"  ("I  have  become  infinitely 
fond  of  this  man"). 

What  conquered  her  was  the  sublime  greatness 
(Herrlichkezt),  the  unequalled  sincerity  (Wahrheit), 
of  Beethoven,  as  expressed  in  his  art.  Moreover,  she 
was  attracted  by  his  naive  attitude  towards  life,  his 
complete  defencelessness.  The  way  in  which  people 
treated  him  revolted  her.  From  that  moment  she  de- 
voted herself  to  his  cause;20  we  shall  see  how  loyally 
she  defended  him,  even  against  those  whose  prejudices 
it  would  have  been  to  her  interest  to  overlook. 

That  she  conquered  Beethoven  is  equally  certain. 
Her  letter  to  Bihler  tells  us  how  assiduously  Beethoven 
sought  her  company.  During  his  last  days  in  Vienna 
he  never  left  her,  he  could  not  part  from  her,  and 

14  ^= 

when  he  had  to  go  he  begged  her  to  write  to  him  at 
least  once  a  month,  because  he  had  no  other  friend. 

Beethoven's  authentic  letter  to  Bettina,  dated  Febru- 
ary 10,  18 ll,21  tells  us  that  she  had  written  to  him  on 
two  occasions  and  that  Beethoven  had  carried  these 
letters  on  his  person  during  the  whole  summer,  that 
he  had  been  delighted  with  them,  and  that,  in  spirit, 
he  had  written  her  a  thousand  letters.  He  expresses  his 
love,  he  sends  kisses,  and  probably  writes  in  much 
stronger  terms  than  he  would  care  to  confess.  That 
this  man,  immured  from  the  world,  living  at  that  time 
in  a  state  of  artistic  trance,  blind,  deaf,  and  insensible 
to  all  that  was  outside,  intoxicated  with  the  harmonies 
which  filled  his  soul,22  with  the  passionate  communion 
which  he  held  with  the  god  within  him,  like  one  of 
the  prophets  of  the  Sistine* — that  this  damned-up  tor- 
rent, suddenly  finding  an  outlet,  should  have  poured 
forth  without  restraint  all  the  thoughts  which  were 
choking  him,  is  in  itself  overwhelming  evidence  of 
his  affection. 

And  now  Bettina  is  to  transmit  to  Goethe  these 
thoughts  of  Beethoven.  This  point,  too,  is  confirmed 
to  us  by  evidence,  although  the  circumstances  were  not 
quite  as  she  told  them. 

*  Translator's  Note. — On  the  ceiling  of  the  Sistine  Chapel,  Michel- 
angelo painted  his  famous  fresco  showing  the  prophets  of  the  Old  Testa- 
ment in  the  attitude  of  passionate  oration. 

=  15 

When  in  1834-35  Bettina  published  her  Brief- 
wechsel,  she  did  not  trouble  about  literal  precision,  and 
made  no  claim  to  it.  After  Goethe's  death  she  had 
secured  through  Councillor  von  Miiller  the  return  of 
her  letters  written  to  the  master.  These  she  now  pub- 
lished, but  not  in  the  disorder  of  style  and  thought  of 
the  originals. 

She  rewrote  them  and  condensed  several  into  one. 
And  more,  she  completed  them  with  her  recollections 
of  conversations  she  had  had,  using,  perhaps,  notes 
which  she  had  made  at  the  time,  according  to  the  cus- 
tom of  the  day.  We  may  be  sure  that  she  had  often 
thought  over  her  conversations  with  Beethoven,  which, 
as  we  shall  see,  frequently  puzzled  her,  and  which 
she  fully  understood  only  many  years  later.  She  had 
no  intention,  in  acting  thus,  to  treat  the  truth  lightly; 
on  the  contrary,  she  desired  to  express  it  more  fully 
and  more  worthily  on  behalf  of  those  whose  memory 
she  wished  to  serve.  Having  thus  recast  the  letters, 
she  gave  them  an  approximate  date,  I  might  almost 
say  a  synthetic  date,  because  one  letter  often  covers 
correspondence  and  conversations  extending  over  sev- 
eral months.  The  value  to  the  historian  of  the  Brief- 
wechsel  is  in  effect  the  value  of  Bettina's  admitted 
powers  of  seeing,  hearing,  and  understanding,  pow- 
ers which  include  a  wise  estimate  as  to  how  far  it 

16  ^ 

may  be  in  her  interest — she  is  quite  unconscious  of 
this — to  speak  the  naked  truth  or  to  embellish  it. 
This  must  be  borne  in  mind  as  each  letter  is  read. 
Whenever  Goethe  alone  is  the  subject,  it  is  advisable, 
no  doubt,  to  remember  Bettina's  lovelorn  tendency  to 
idealize  him,  and  to  mingle  her  own  life  with  that  of 
her  idol. 

This,  however,  does  not  apply  to  Beethoven. 

On  the  contrary,  Bettina's  worship  of  Goethe  should 
have  prompted  her  to  neglect  Beethoven,  to  avoid  hurt- 
ing Goethe,  who,  on  this  particular  occasion,  is  of  sec- 
ondary importance  to  her.  But  she  does  nothing  of  the 
kind.  Bettina  battles  bravely  and  passionately  for 
Beethoven  against  everybody.  Nothing  in  her  whole 
life  does  her  greater  honour.  It  is  only  when  we  see  her 
thus  at  close  range  that  we  discover  the  depth  of  her 
loyalty,  in  contrast  with  her  superficial  shortcomings, 
and  appreciate  the  instinct  of  justice  which  in  her  is 
even  stronger  than  the  claims  of  love.24 

In  her  Briefwechsel  of  1835,  Bettina  publishes  a  let- 
ter which  she  is  supposed  to  have  written  to  Goethe  on 
May  28,  1810,  immediately  after  her  first  meetings 
with  Beethoven,  a  letter  glowing  with  the  flame  of  his 
fiery  words. 

It  is  probable  that  she  wrote  down  her  thoughts  every 
evening  when  she  was  alone  after  these  memorable 

P   Wl     II    III!  I 

;■  •    M 


'   & 

=  17 

meetings.  For  we  see  how,  for  months  afterwards,  she 
is  troubled  by  them;  they  had  caused  a  revolution  in 
her  mind.  It  is  even  possible  that  the  rough  notes  of 
what  had  been  said  were  shown  to  Beethoven,  who, 
surprised  when  he  read,  in  a  quiet  moment,  the  con- 
fidences uttered  in  an  hour  of  abandon,  is  said  to  have 
exclaimed:  "What?  I  said  that?  I?  I  must  have  been 
carried  away!"  But,  in  fact,  the  letter  to  Goethe  was 
written  only  at  the  beginning  of  July,  after  Bettina  had 
left  Vienna  and  while  she  was  enjoying,  in  her  country 
home  at  Bukowan,  a  quiet  time  in  which  to  recall  the 
great  memories  of  the  month  of  May. 

How  deep  and  lasting  had  been  the  shock  which 
Beethoven's  advent  had  caused  is  shown  by  a  little 
incident.  In  June,  her  brother  Clemens  came  to  join 
her  with  his  friend,  young  Arnim.  The  latter,  who  felt 
sure  that  she  returned  his  affection,  found  her  distant 
and  absorbed  in  thought.  She  told  him  that  she  meant 
to  devote  her  life  to  the  great  cause  of  the  time,  to 
music  ("Hzngeben  zu  grossen  Z  wee  ken  der  Zeit,  an 
Musik" ) .  And  when  Arnim  left,  deeply  distressed,  and 
begged  her  in  his  letters  to  return  his  love,  Bettina 
replied,  affectionately  and  sincerely,  that  she  would 
like  to  make  him  happy,  but  that  she  could  not  read 
clearly  what  was  in  her  heart.  Already  in  1809  she  had 
vaguely  hinted  to  Arnim  how  fascinated  she  was  by 

18  = 

music  (  "die  Fesseln  die  mir  die  Musik  anlegt").  The 
meetings  with  Beethoven  had  strenghtened  these 
bonds;  opposing  forces  were  at  work  within  her. 

On  July  7th  she  began  a  long  letter  to  Goethe,  only 
to  interrupt  it  twice;  she  continued  it  on  the  13th,  then 
on  the  28th;  she  tried  to  pour  into  it  the  tide  of  feeling 
which  had  accumulated  during  the  last  three  months. 
One  feels  that  it  obsessed  her  and  that  she  could  not 
free  herself  from  her  reflective  mood.25 

She  put  off  time  after  time  the  moment  when  she 
was  to  utter  what  concerned  her  most.  ...  At  last  she 
made  up  her  mind,  and  began  the  account  of  her  meet- 
ing with  Beethoven.  The  words  she  used  are  the  same 
as  those  which  she  employed  at  the  opening  of  her 
imaginary  letter  published  in  1835.  In  the  latter  she 
omitted  some  redundances.  In  the  original  letter  she 
also  insisted  more  on  the  common  love  for  Goethe 
which  had  brought  her  closer  to  Beethoven.  Her 
scheme  is  clear;  in  order  to  persuade  Goethe  to  listen 
to  her,  she  introduced  Beethoven  under  the  banner  of 
Goethe.  .  .  .  Behold  him!  Bettina's  heart  is  full  to  the 
brim;  it  is  overflowing: 

"And  now,  watch!"  ("Jetzt,  giebt  Achtl")  I  am 
going  to  tell  you  of  Beethoven:  (frAn  dies  em  geht  die 
ganze  Welt  auf  und  nieder  wie  .  .  .")20  ("The  whole 
world  rises  and  falls  around  him,  as  .  .  ."). 

=  19 

And  with  these  mysterious  words  the  letter  abruptly 
ended;  the  sentence  was  left  unfinished.  Bettina  could 
not  continue.  .  .  .  It  was  impossible.  .  .  .  She  had  too 
mrch  to  say.  .  .  . 

Goethe,  then  at  Karlsbad,  wrote,  on  July  22nd,  to 
his  wife  that  he  had  received  a  short  note  from  Bettina, 
without  date  or  address,  informing  him  that  she  would 
either  come  to  Weimar  in  the  near  future  or  write  him 
a  long  letter.  Bettina,  who  had  felt  how  very  difficult 
it  was  to  express  in  writing  to  Goethe  the  overwhelm- 
ing emotion  which  the  discovery  of  Beethoven  had 
roused  in  her,  and  who,  no  doubt,  had  written  more 
than  one  letter,  only  to  destroy  it  again,  left  her  con- 
fession to  the  next  meeting.  It  would  be  easier  to  speak 
than  to  write  it. 

This  meeting  took  place  sooner  than  either  Bettina 
or  Goethe  expected.  It  so  happened  that  while  Goethe 
was  summoned  to  Teplitz  by  his  grand  duke,  Bettina, 
on  her  way  to  Berlin  by  way  of  Prague,  passed  through 
Teplitz,  heard  that  Goethe  was  there,  and  hurried  to 
meet  him.  In  two  days,  two  beautiful  days  of  happy 
intimacy,  August  10  and  11,  1810,  she  poured  out  at 
last  in  full  flood  the  revelation  which  had  enriched  her 
life,  which  had  shaken  it  to  the  depths. 

"She  has  talked  to  me  endlessly,"  writes  Goethe,  "of 

20  ^ 

her  adventures  old  and  new"  (JfSie  hat  mir  unendliches 
erzahlt  von  alten  und  neuen  Abenteuern"). 

The  new  adventures  were  her  meeting  with  Bee- 
thoven. Goethe  avoids  mentioning  his  name;  he  refuses 
to  attach  importance  to  Bettina's  enthusiasm.  What  was 
his  opinion  of  Beethoven?  He  thought  very  little  of 
him  at  that  time,27  and,  as  we  shall  see,  not  much  good, 
either.  But  at  that  moment  he  was  too  much  taken  with 
the  charms  of  the  pretty  girl  to  stop  her  flow  of  narra- 
tive. He  was  watching  her  lips,  without  listening  to 
the  words. 

"Bettina  was  really  prettier  and  more  charming  than 
ever"  (^'Bettina  war  wirklich  hubscher  und  Uebenswur- 
diger  wie  sonst").  So  he  writes  very  foolishly  the  day 
after  her  departure,  to  his  jealous  Christiana,  who 
never  forgot  it. 

He  was  not  listening,  and  yet  he  heard.  .  .  .  What 
was  Bettina  saying? 

She  was  telling  him  what  she  wrote  later  on  in  her 
imaginary  letter  of  1835.  This  was  not  an  exact  account 
of  her  first  visit  to  Beethoven,  but  of  all  her  visits  com- 
bined, all  the  days  they  spent  together,  all  the  walks, 
the  reflections,  and  the  overwhelming  impression  made 
on  her  by  this  great  man;  distance  lent  him  an  added 
stature  in  her  mind  and  vivid  recollections  crowned 
him,  as  it  were,  with  a  halo. 

=  21 
I  have  no  reason  whatever  to  doubt  the  material 
accuracy  and  the  moral  certainty  of  her  impressions, 
though  the  words  which  she  attributed  to  Beethoven 
in  her  version  of  1835  are  probably  not  literally 

Bettina's  burning  imagination  has  probably  gilded 
the  picture,  and  the  artistic  gifts  natural  to  her  were 
no  doubt  responsible  for  its  composition.  But  her  pic- 
ture of  Beethoven  is  as  true  as  that  famous  painting 
by  Claude  Lorrain  of  the  Roman  Campagna.  Scrupu- 
lous realism  could  not  reproduce  more  faithfully  the 
plains  of  Rome  and  the  brilliance  of  the  light.  Thus 
with  the  Beethoven  whom  Bettina  saw  and  painted. 
No  other  eye  has  fathomed  the  depth  of  his  genius  so 
deeply  as  hers;  feminine  intuition  absorbed  his  secret 
thoughts  even  before  Beethoven  himself  had  a  clear 
conception  of  them.28  It  is  a  plunge  into  the  fiery 
furnace  of  the  Cyclops.  Bettina  listened,  just  as 
Beethoven  spoke,  in  a  raptus,  and  that  is  why  she  per- 
ceived what  ponderous  intellectuals,  who  know  noth- 
ing of  the  lightning  which  illumines  the  soul,  are 
unable  to  grasp. 

Goethe,  however,  knew  this  lightning  and  did  not 
appreciate  it,  he  realized  its  danger,  and  preferred  a 
horizon  free  from  it.  What,  then,  did  Goethe  think? 
Interested,  but  rather  at  a  loss,  he  refused  to  take  very 

22  = 

seriously  what  he  called  later  on  Bettina's  (eWunder- 
Uche  Grillen"  ("Strange  whims").29  But  his  ever  alert 
psychological  curiosity  was  at  the  same  time  attracted 
and  repulsed,  by  these  "problematical  characteristics, 
all  the  more  so  because  they  are  so  difficult  to  define 
and  to  decipher."30  He  was  struck  by  the  extraordinary 
figure  conjured  up  by  Bettina;  later  we  shall  see  this 
from  the  haste,  so  unusual  in  him,  with  which  he  went 
to  see  Beethoven  at  Teplitz.  Goethe  probably  never 
wrote,  and  for  good  reasons,  the  letter  of  June  6th, 
which  Bettina  attributes  to  him,81  and  which  would 
have  been  written  soon  after  she  left.  It  must  be  added 
that,  not  content  with  their  long  conversations,  she  left 
with  him  a  lengthy  written  account,  and  sent  him,  three 
days  later,  yet  another  letter,  even  more  ardent  than 
those  which  preceded  it.  Goethe  replied  on  August 
17th,  expressing  both  the  surprise  and  the  joy  which  he 
derived  from  these  pages  which  she  had  given  him  and 
which  he  read  over  and  over  again.  "And  now  comes 
your  last  letter  which  surpasses  all  the  others.  .  .  ." 
Never  before  had  Bettina  made  a  stronger  impression 
upon  Goethe.32  Never  before  had  he  formed  a  higher 
conception  of  her  mental  capacity;  and  as,  in  his  genial 
egoism,  he  was  apt  to  judge  other  people  by  the  value 
of  the  spiritual  booty  which  they  brought  him,  he  im- 
mediately bore  witness  to  the  high  esteem  which  he  had 


conceived  for  her,  by  associating  her  with  his  own 

At  that  time,  then,  Beethoven  would  have  been  very 
near  to  forcing  an  entrance  into  Goethe's  intellectual 
sympathy,  had  not  a  third  person  been  present  at  these 
conversations  who  counteracted  Bettina's  efforts,  Zelter. 

We  know  of  the  solid  friendship  which  bound 
Goethe  to  this  clumsy  artisan  of  music,  this  good  fel- 
low, sound  musician,  perfect  Philistine,  and  faithful 
Achates  to  his  JEneas.  No  other  bonds  proved  more 
durable  than  this  friendship.  It  has  its  noble  side;  but 
a  deplorable  law  governing  genius  seems  to  decree  that, 
with  the  superior  mind,  a  strong  dose  of  mediocrity  in 
the  other  is  required  to  satisfy  the  needs  of  friendship. 
A  genius  will  form  only  a  passing  friendship  with  his 
peers.  After  Schiller's  death  the  circle  in  which  Goethe 
lived  was,  almost  without  exception,  astonishingly  bar- 
ren; it  comprised  provincial  bourgeois  twenty  years 
behind  their  time,  dense,  narrow,  and  warped.  Young 
people  who  called  on  him  were  often  scandalized  at 
this.  In  his  band  of  workmen,  whose  devotion  was 
unshakable,  Zelter  was,  and  remained  to  the  end,  the 
foreman,  the  sole  oracle  on  the  subject  of  music.  It  was 
on  his  sincere  and  obtuse  lack  of  understanding  that 
Goethe  passively  relied  in  deciding  what  to  admire  and 
what  to  reject. 

24  = 

What  then,  did  his  Zelter  tell  him  of  Beethoven?34 

November  12,  1808.  .  .  .  "With  admiration  and 
awe  we  behold  will-o'-the-wisps  on  the  horizon  of 
Parnassus,  talents  of  the  greatest  significance,  like  Bee- 
thoven's, using  the  club  of  Hercules  to  kill  flies.  At  first 
we  are  surprised,  then  we  shrug  our  shoulders  at  the 
sight  of  this  display  of  talent,  employed  to  invest  trivial 
things  with  importance." 

A  little  later35  he  became  more  virulent.  Speaking 
of  Beethoven's  works,  he  was  not  content  to  refer  to 
them  as  monsters  "whose  father  might  be  a  woman, 
or  whose  mother  might  be  a  man";  he  suspected  them 
of  being  immoral.  Christ  on  the  Mount  of  Olives, 
which,  no  doubt,  is  not  a  great  work,  but  which  cer- 
tainly does  not  deserve  this  clamour  of  outraged 
modesty,  he  considered  to  be  "an  unclean  work  (Un- 
keuschheit)  the  reason  and  the  end  of  which  is  ever- 
lasting death.  I  know,"  he  continues,  "music-lovers 
who  used  to  show  alarm,  or  even  indignation,  on  hear- 
ing these  works;  now,  however,  they  are  roused  by 
them  to  an  enthusiasm  which  is  akin  to  that  of  the 
devotees  of  Greek  sexual  perversion.  .  .  ."  (JrWie  die 
Anhanger  der  griechischen  Lie  be"). 

The  art  of  the  chaste  and  virile  Beethoven  accused 
of  immodesty  and  sexual  perversion!  It  might  be  called 
a  malevolent  and  foolish  joke!  It  would  be  laughable, 

=  25 

if  we  did  not  remember  into  whose  ears  this  poison  was 
poured,  though  by  a  hand  which  we  must  admit  to  be 
without  malice,  as  Zelter  himself  proved  later.  .  .  . 
"Unbalanced,  monstrous,  immodest,  perverted  Art:"  in 
ten  lines  Zelter  found  everything  which  could  erect  an 
everlasting  barrier  between  Goethe  and  Beethoven. 

Bettina,  then,  met  Zelter  at  Goethe's  house  on  the 
evening  of  August  11,  1810,  at  Teplitz.  We  can 
imagine  the  unkind  remarks,  the  scoffing,  the  clumsy 
arguments,  the  rough-and-ready  words  with  which 
Zelter  commented  on  the  mystic-musical  flights  of  Bet- 
tina. The  little  cat  arched  her  back  and  spat  at  the 
growling  cur  from  Berlin.  Goethe,  in  a  short  note  of 
August  13th  in  which  he  praised  Bettina's  charm,  says: 
"But  towards  other  people  she  is  very  rude"  (J'Aber 
gegen  and  ere  Menschen  sehr  unartig"). 

When  Bettina  left  Teplitz  she  took  with  her  a  solid 
hatred  of  Zelter.  She  ruminated  over  it  the  whole 
winter.  In  this,  again,  she  showed  her  loyalty.  She 
knew  perfectly  well  that  it  was  dangerous  to  attack 
Zelter's  influence  on  Goethe,  that  it  was  labour  lost, 
and  that  she  risked  the  forfeiture  of  her  idol's  good 
will.  Nevertheless,  she  refused  to  forgive  this  "Philis- 
tine," as  she  called  him,  his  gross  and  malevolent  lack 
of  understanding  of  Beethoven.  When  she  met  him 
again  in  Berlin,  where  poor  Arnim  was  ill  advised 

26  ^ 

enough  to  recommend  Zelter  to  her  as  a  teacher  of 
harmony,  and  was  snubbed  for  it,  her  letters  to  Goethe 
were  filled  with  sarcastic  references  to  the  clumsy 
pedant  "whose  bones  are  so  large  and  whose  waistcoat 
is  so  long"  V'mit  so  breiten  Knochen,  und  so  lunger 
Weste").  She  puts  them  all  into  the  same  bag,  these 
Berlin  pedants — Zelter,  Reichardt,  Rigini,  and  Him- 
mel;  they  were  always  quarrelling,  always  barking  at 
one  another  and  at  the  passers-by.  Let  them  bite  and 
bludgeon  one  another,  but  the  great  men,  the  glorious 
dead  and  Beethoven,  must  be  left  in  peace.88 

Goethe  frowned.  He  had  hoped  that  these  musical 
fancies  would  be  forgotten,  like  the  whims  of  a  pretty 
woman.  When  he  found  that  they  were  an  obsession  he 
was  annoyed.  At  first  he  was  guarded,  for  he  had  need 
of  Bettina.  For  the  memoirs  which  he  intended  to  write 
he  must  draw  on  recollections  of  his  boyhood,  and 
Bettina  had  gathered  the  details  from  the  lips  of  his 
mother  during  the  days  which  the  two  women  spent 
together,  hours  of  delight  in  which  they  pictured  once 
again  the  sunrise  of  the  young  god.  Goethe  himself, 
strange  to  say,  remembered  nothing  of  his  youth;  his 
Frankfurt  days  were  dead.  Without  the  help  of  her 
who  had  been  his  mother's  youthful  confidante,  he 
could  not  have  described  a  single  incident  of  his  earlier 
years.  Thus  he  had  to  extract  from  Bettina  those  treas- 




1 "   '                            i 


blBP    -  *  m 


?m  ?il 


yM  |v  9 


§14  JjLl 




=  27 
ures  which  she  had  gathered  for  her  own  delight.  Drop 
by  drop  she  distilled  them  for  him,  interpolating  un- 
kind remarks  about  Zelter,  and  introducing  the  nebu- 
lous theories  of  her  fevered  brain  on  "music-revela- 
tion" and  the  genius  of  Beethoven,  fancies  which  are 
illumined  at  times  by  a  lightning  flash  of  inspiration.87 
Goethe  had  to  accept  all  she  gave  him.  His  bad  temper 
was  only  revealed  by  his  silence,  but  his  resentment 
grew.  Some  words  in  his  letter  of  January  11,  1811, 
show  it: 

"On  many  occasions  you  are  as  stubborn  as  a  mule 
and  especially  when  you  speak  of  music.  In  your  little 
silly  head  you  concoct  some  extraordinary  fancies;  how- 
ever, I  am  not  going  to  lecture  you  or  cause  you  any 

In  other  words,  "You  can  talk  as  long  as  you  like; 
I  shall  not  honour  you  by  a  discussion." 

During  this  winter  of  1810-11  Goethe  broke  with 
Bettina.  He  thought  he  was  the  only  lord  and  master 
of  this  fascinating  mind,  the  dual  nature  of  which, 
Italian  and  German-Rhenish  (she  was  the  daughter  of 
his  early-beloved  Maximiliana  La  Roche),  attracted 
him.  She  had  come  to  him,  and  it  seemed  as  if  she 
were  his.  Now,  while  reassuring  the  god  of  Weimar  of 
her  admiration,  she  parted  company  with  him  in  order 
to  follow  the  new  revelation  which  had  come  to  her 

28  ^= 

from  Beethoven  and  to  identify  herself  with  the  young 
romantic  movement  in  Germany! 

After  long  hesitation,  Bettina  became  engaged  to 
Arnim  (December  4,  1810)  and  married  him  in  the 
following  spring  (March  11th).  The  letter  in  which  she 
informed  Goethe  of  this  event,  and  which  was  written 
two  months  later  (May  11th),  is  really  devoted  more 
to  Goethe  than  to  Arnim;  no  doubt  her  sincere  affec- 
tion for  Arnim  was  a  very  pale  flame  compared  with 
her  passion  for  Goethe,  which  lasted  all  her  life.  But, 
unconsciously,  Goethe  thought  himself  betrayed,  and 
smarted  under  the  disappointment.  The  wound  was 
above  all  intellectual.  Achim  von  Arnim,  a  young 
gentleman  of  letters,  was  worthy  of  the  highest  esteem 
both  for  his  talent  and  for  his  character;  he  showed  for 
Goethe  much  respect  and  consideration,  which  the 
elder  man  appreciated;  but  in  the  domain  of  the  intel- 
lect Arnim,  like  Beethoven,  with  due  regard  to  the 
difference  between  the  two,  was  the  enemy.  I  am 
wrong,  he  was  not;  it  is  Goethe  who  was  Arnim's 
enemy.  The  tide  of  neo-romanticism  which  was  rising 
round  him  troubled  and  exasperated  him.  He  believed 
that  the  whole  edifice  of  his  life  was  threatened  with 
destruction.  And  though  the  new  generation  asked 
nothing  better  than  to  kneel  before  him,  and  receive 
the  accolade  of  chivalry,  he  could  scarcely  hide  from 

=  29 

them  his  animosity.  It  broke  forth  with  unrestrained 
violence  in  a  letter  written  in  October,  1810,  the  object 
of  which  was,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the  noble-minded 
and  innocent  Arnim. 

"There  are  moments,"  Goethe  writes,  "when  they 
drive  me  to  distraction.  I  have  to  control  myself  so  as 
not  to  be  rude  to  Arnim,  who  sent  me  his  Countess 
Dolores,  which  I  like  well.  If  I  had  a  son  gone  astray, 
I  would  rather  know  that  he  had  wandered  into 
brothels,  and  even  into  pigsties,  than  that  he  should 
lose  himself  in  the  bedlam  of  the  present  day,  for  I  fear 
that  from  this  hell  there  is  no  salvation."39 

What  do  those  who  always  see  in  Goethe  an  Olym- 
pic figure  think  of  this  flow  of  brutal  temper?  If  we 
wish  to  understand  his  aversion  for  his  time,  let  us 
think  of  our  own  days,  of  the  present  crisis  in  Euro- 
pean art,  uprooted  today  as  then  by  a  World  War  and 
by  social  upheavals;  let  us  note  the  confusion  of  faked 
folly,  faked  reasoning,  faked  religion,  faked  poetry; 
let  us  consider  the  degradation  of  the  mind  which 
swings  frantically  like  a  pendulum  from  anarchy  to 
serfdom,  from  the  excesses  of  liberty  to  the  excesses  of 
tyranny!  An  epoch  which,  perhaps,  in  spite  of  its  basic 
incoherence  and  destructive  fury,  may  be  pregnant  with 
greatness,  a  necessary  transition  from  a  dying  world  to 
a  world  yet  to  be  born.  .  .  .  But  a  man  like  Goethe, 

30  ^= 

who  knew  what  it  had  cost  him  to  establish  order  in 
his  art  and  in  his  life,  could  not  see  all  that  he  had 
won  in  imminent  danger  or  ruined,  without  a  feeling 
of  disgust.  This  sentiment  was  all  the  stronger  because 
of  his  keen  insight  into  the  dangers  which  beset  the 
German  mentality  with  its  chronic  lack  of  balance.  He 
had  felt,  too,  very  deeply  the  disgrace  to  which  these 
excesses  inevitably  lead. 

To  preserve,  in  the  face  of  these  revolutions,  the 
ironic  impassivity  of  a  Renan,  Goethe  would  have  had 
to  be  a  Renan  himself,  a  man  who  essayed  every- 
thing, but  retained  nothing.  Goethe,  however,  was 
Goethe,  and  what  he  had  he  held;  he  left  nothing  to 
the  changes  and  chances  of  life.  A  man  of  peace,  he 
was  always  armed. 

He  is  often  compared  to  Phoebus  Apollo,  a  romantic 
aspect  of  him  immortalized  in  the  fine  bust  by  Martin 
Gottlob  Klauer,  the  sculptor;  there  are  certain  traits 
in  the  life  and  character  of  the  god  which  he  exhibits 
in  a  marked  degree.  He  shows  us  the  god  in  exile;  the 
god  in  solitude;  the  god  who  fights  the  dragon  but  who 
is  too  proud  to  proclaim  his  struggles  and  the  dangers 
he  has  faced ;  the  god  who  fights  alone  and  who  alone, 
as  day  succeeds  day,  ascends  the  path  which  leads 
to  the  great  light. 

He  was  Goethe,  the  man  who  rarely  laughed,  who 

.lib   —  V 

.  r> 


=  31 

took  life  and  art  seriously,  slow  to  forgive  those  who, 
in  the  lightness  of  their  hearts,  would  trouble  his  sense 
of  order  and  of  harmony. 

If,  then,  the  inoffensive  Arnim  caused  him  to  empty 
the  vials  of  his  wrath,  what  of  Beethoven? 

Goethe  was  not  enough  of  a  musician  to  see  in 
Beethoven  what  we  in  our  day  perceive  at  once  and 
what  Bettina  had  so  cleverly  divined,  the  sovereign 
mastery  (Herrlichkeit)  of  his  will  in  matters  of  art, 
over  the  unfettered  elements.  He  was,  however,  musi- 
cian enough,  as  was  Tolstoi,  to  perceive  the  unchaining 
of  these  elements,  and  to  be  frightened  by  it.  The  rush- 
ing of  the  flood  was  in  his  ears,  but  not  the  quos  ego 
of  deliverance.  Beethoven's  dominance  of  the  elements, 
even  had  he  realized  it,  would  not  perhaps  have  reas- 
sured him  on  his  own  account.  Let  us  say  plainly  that, 
on  the  edge  of  any  abyss,  Goethe  felt  giddy.  He  con- 
sidered Beethoven,  gesticulating  on  the  verge,  as  a 
lunatic,  a  sleep-walker  who,  sooner  or  later,  would 
topple  into  the  depths.  He  repulsed  the  hand  of  the 
madman  outstretched  to  clutch  him.  .  .  . 

I  had  written  these  lines  before  reading  the  scene 
which  now  follows:  it  will  show  that  my  intuition  was 

On  the  12th  of  April,  1811,  Beethoven  wrote  to 
Goethe.40  His  letter,  touchingly  modest,  overflowed 

32  ^= 

with  affection  and  respect.  He  told  Goethe  that  he 
would  send  him  shortly  the  music  to  Egmont*1  and 
asked  for  his  opinion: 

"Yes,  even  adverse  criticism  will  benefit  me  and  my 
art;  I  shall  be  as  pleased  to  receive  it  as  the  highest 

It  is  worth  noting  that  this  humble  great  man, 
humble  only  with  Goethe,  proud  towards  all  others, 
had  already  sent  to  Goethe  through  Bettina,  in  the 
course  of  the  previous  year,  three  admirable  Lieder  to 
words  by  Goethe,  and  that  the  latter  had  made  no 
reply.  Yet  Beethoven,  when  he  wrote  again,  uttered 
not  a  syllable  of  impatience  or  a  hint  of  reproach.  He 
repeated  the  offering  with  the  same  humility. 

The  letter  was  brought  to  Weimar  by  Beethoven's 
secretary,  Franz  Oliva,  a  distinguished  and  likable 
young  man,  of  whom  Varnhagen  and  Rahel  have 
spoken  with  much  esteem.  Goethe  invited  him  to  din- 
ner on  May  4,  1811.  After  the  meal,  Oliva  sat  down  at 
the  piano  and  played  Beethoven.  What  did  Goethe  do? 

While  Oliva  was  playing,  he  walked  impatiently  up 
and  down  the  music-room  with  Boisseree.  The  latter, 
who  did  not  like  Beethoven's  works,  either,  amused 
himself  by  looking  at  Runge's  paintings  hanging  on 
the  walls,  paintings  which  were  indeed  by  a  great 
artist  whose  charm  and  originality  have  recently  won 

=  33 

renewed  recognition.  Goethe,  much  vexed,  said  to 

"What!  You  do  not  know  that?  Well,  just  look  at 
it!  It  is  enough  to  make  one  mad  (Zum  Rasend- 
werden) !  Beautiful  and  crazy,  at  the  same  time!"  .  .  . 

"Yes,  just  like  Beethoven's  music  which  that  fellow 
over  there  is  playing  (der  da  spielt) ."  .  .  . 

"Exactly,"  growls  Goethe.  '  That'  wants  to  grasp 
everything,  and  'that'  always  loses  itself  in  elementary 
things,  and  yet  some  details  are  infinitely  beautiful.42 
.  .  .  Look!" — and  here  we  do  not  know  whether 
he  was  speaking  of  Runge  or  Beethoven,  because  the 
deprecating  judgment  included  both — "What  devilish 
work  (Was  fur  Teufelszeug)\  .  .  .  And  here,  again, 
what  charm  (Anmuth)  and  splendour  (Herrlichkeit) 
this  fellow  (Kerl)  has  produced!  But  the  poor  devil 
could  not  keep  it  up,  he  is  done  with  already  (er  ist 
schon  hiri) .  It  was  bound  to  happen.  People  who  stand 
on  seesaws43  either  perish  or  go  crazy  (verriickt) ;  for 
that  there  is  no  pardon  (da  ist  keine  Gnade)."  .  .  . 

For  a  few  moments  he  remained  silent.  Then  fol- 
lowed a  fresh  explosion: 

"You  can  hardly  understand!  For  us  old  men  it  is 
maddening  (Toll  werderi)  to  have  to  see  all  around 
us  a  decaying  world,  a  world  returning  to  its  elements 

34  ^= 

until — God  knows  when — things  will  change  for  the 
better!"  .  .  . 

It  would  be  difficult  to  disclose  more  effectively  the 
innermost  secret  of  his  thought,  the  hidden  tragedy. 
This  subtle  malevolence  for  Beethoven  was  really  his 
vital  instinct  on  the  defence,  the  hatred  of  one  who 
feels  that  what  he  holds  dearest  is  threatened. 

However,  he  was  a  man  of  the  world  and  knew 
what  good  manners  demand,  what  was  due  to  the 
advances  of  a  distinguished  composer  who  had  shown 
him  such  great  respect,  what  was  due  also  to  the  in- 
sistence of  Bettina,  who  in  her  letter  of  May  11th44 
pleaded  Beethoven's  cause  with  such  warmth.  So  on 
June  25  th  he  at  last  replied  with  a  cordial  politeness 
from  Karlsbad.45  He  did  justice  to  Bettina,  and  pointed 
out  to  Beethoven  the  value  of  such  an  advocate: 

"Bettina  fully  deserves  the  sympathy  which  you  have 
shown  the  dear  girl.  She  speaks  of  you  with  the  great- 
est admiration  and  affection.  She  counts  the  hours  she 
spent  with  you  among  the  happiest  of  her  life." 

He  will  be  glad,  he  continues,  to  find  on  his  return 
the  promised  Egmont  score,  and  he  thinks  that  he  will 
be  able  to  have  it  played  at  the  performances  of  this 
drama  the  following  winter.  "Thus  I  hope  to  give 
great  enjoyment  both  to  myself  and  to  your  numerous 
admirers  in  our  country."  He  hoped  that  Beethoven 






=  35 

would  come  to  see  him,  as  Oliva  promised,  and  advised 
him  to  choose  the  season  when  the  court  and  the  musi- 
cal public  would  be  in  town. 

"You  are  sure  to  find  in  Weimar  a  reception  worthy 
of  your  great  merits.  .  .  .  But  no  one  could  be  more 
interested  in  your  visit  than  I,  who  beg  to  express  my 
most  cordial  thanks  for  all  the  kindness  which  you 
have  shown  me." 

The  letter  was  written  then  in  as  affectionate  a  tone 
as  Goethe  could  use  towards  a  musician  whom  he 
knew  only  by  hearsay,46  and  whose  art  had  no  great 
attraction  for  him.  It  seems  to  me  that  this  was  indeed 
a  great  triumph  for  Bettina. 

When,  at  the  end  of  January,  1812,  he  at  last  re- 
ceived the  music  to  Egmont,  he  had  it  played  to  him 
on  the  piano  by  an  amateur,  Friedrich  von  Boyne- 
burg,47  several  times  in  the  course  of  the  same  day. 
From  this  it  would  appear  that  he  was  making  an  effort 
to  understand  Beethoven;  the  hope  seemed  justified 
that,  in  spite  of  all  that  separated  them,  the  two  men 
would  join  hands  in  friendly  alliance. 

But  just  at  that  moment  a  catastrophe  occurred. 
Beethoven  lost  his  little  patroness  at  Weimar.  During 

36  ^ 

the  summer  of  1811  Goethe  suddenly  broke  off  his 
relations  with  Bettina.  The  Arnims  were  shown  the 

And  at  that  fatal  hour  an  evil  chance  brought  Goethe 
and  Beethoven  face  to  face. 


BEETHOVEN    (1823) 


Goethe's  break  with  Bettina  in  September,  1811,  was 
like  a  thunderclap  out  of  a  cloudless  sky.  But  the  storm 
had  been  gathering  for  a  whole  year,  since  Bettina's 
visit  to  Beethoven,  and  the  rebellious  enthusiasm  which 
she  consequently  displayed. 

The  newly- wedded  Arnims  had  come  to  Weimar  for 
their  honeymoon.  At  first  everything  went  smoothly. 
They  were  to  have  stayed  for  a  week,  and  Christiana's 
jealousy  was  smoothed  by  her  assumption  that  "Be- 
dina,"48  now  happily  married,  was  no  longer  dan- 
gerous. The  young  couple  were  affectionately  received; 
they  were  at  Goethe's  house  morning,  noon,  and 
night;  they  never  left  him.  The  first  week's  stay  was 
followed  by  a  second,  then  by  a  third.  The  state  of 
Bettina's  health  justified,  it  is  true,  the  extension  of 



their  visit,  but  not  in  the  eyes  of  Goethe,  with  whose 
work  it  interfered,  nor  in  those  of  the  Frau  Geheimrat 
("Mrs.  Privy  Councillor"),  who,  to  her  bitter  disap- 
pointment, soon  discovered  that  Bettina's  marriage 
made  no  difference  in  her  spiritual  flirtation  with  the 
Geheimrat.*9  The  two  women  were  certainly  not  born 
to  understand,  or  even  to  tolerate,  one  another;  the 
worthy  fat  Christiana,  so  simple  and  so  vulgar  (with 
age  and  good  living  she  became  redder  and  fatter, 
more  and  more  vulgar),  and  Bettina,  delicate  and 
difficult,  with  her  sentimental  fancies  and  her  never- 
ending  "ideas."  Both  had  ready,  lively  and  uncompro- 
mising tongues:  both  were  up  in  arms  in  the  presence 
of  the  man  whom  both,  for  different  reasons,  consid- 
ered their  property.  They  met  every  day,  smiled  at  each 
other,  and  kissed  .  .  .  they  would  much  rather  have 
bitten  each  other!  The  Arnims,  like  everyone  else  in 
Weimar  society,  sympathized  discreetly  with  the  hen- 
pecked great  man.  Christiana,  on  the  other  hand,  in- 
cited Goethe  against  the  guests  who  took  advantage  of 
him.  The  storm  broke  suddenly  while  the  two  women 
were  visiting  a  picture-gallery,  and  a  real  tornado  it 
was.  Bettina  knew  something  of  art  and  exercised  her 
wit  at  the  expense  of  the  daubs  which  were  shown. 
The  organizer  of  the  exhibition  was  the  Hojrat  Hein- 
rich  Meyer,  an  old  friend  of  Goethe's  family,  whose 

=  41 

taste,  like  that  of  Zelter  and  all  the  old  habitues  of  the 
house,  was  somewhat  mildewed.  Christiana,  therefore, 
took  the  offence  as  a  personal  affront;  unable  to  meet 
Bettina,  who  excelled  in  ironical  humour,  on  her  own 
ground,  the  apoplectic  lady  gave  vent  to  her  accumu- 
lated wrath  in  screams  and  gesticulations.  Bettina  was 
accustomed  to  adorn  her  impudent  little  nose  with  a 
lorgnette  or  with  glasses;  they  were  torn  from  her, 
thrown  to  the  ground  and  smashed.  In  the  hearing  of  a 
curious  crowd,  attracted  by  her  cries,  the  offended  wife 
forbade  her  rival,  who  was  struck  dumb  with  surprise, 
ever  to  set  foot  again  in  their  house.  It  was  a  public 
scandal.  The  whole  town  eagerly  supported  Bettina. 
So  good  an  opportunity  of  attacking  Christiana  and 
Goethe  could  not  be  missed,  for  the  bourgeois  morality 
of  Weimar  had  never  forgiven  their  scandalous  mar- 
riage. Goethe  had  necessarily  to  take  sides  with  his 
wife,  and  closed  his  door  to  the  Arnims.50 

At  heart,  he  did  not  regret  it.  Their  departure  meant 
the  end  of  a  romantic  folly.  Henceforth  he  would  have 
peace,  peace  in  the  company  of  Zelter,  Riemer,  Meyer, 
and  others  like  them,  peace  and  the  old  order  of  things. 
Arnim,  writing  to  Grimm  at  the  end  of  September, 

"You  can  hardly  imagine  the  incredible  surround- 
ings in  which  he  lives,  separated  from  the  rest  of  soci- 

42  = 

ety  by  his  wife.  And  how  he  fears  everything  novel  in 
art,  everything  which  is  not  well  ordered  (Unord- 
nung) .  It  is  almost  laughable.  He  will  say  of  anything 
new:  "Yes,  it  is  a  very  good  joke  (recht  gute  Spasse), 
but  I  am  no  longer  interested,  (aber  sie  gehen  mich 
nicht  mehr  an).  It  almost  seems  as  if  the  writing  of  his 
biography  (at  which  he  had  been  working  for  a  year) 
has  suddenly  aged  him,  and  his  way  of  thinking." 

But  the  astounding  adaptability  of  Goethe's  genius 
enabled  him  to  recapture  the  spirit  of  his  lost  youth; 
we  find  in  the  Westostlicher  Divan  a  springtime  of  ex- 
uberant passion,  and  a  dazzling  flight  of  fancy  in  the 
last  Faust  and  the  immortal  song  of  the  watcher, 
Lynceus,  whose  "happy  eyes"  are  ever  open.51 

But  a  period  of  sheer  despondency  and  hopelessness 
preceded  each  of  these  revivals. 

He  who  knew  himself  so  well  needed  complete  isola- 
tion in  such  moments.  And,  indeed,  he  found  this 
isolation,  and  enjoyed  it  to  the  full,  in  the  honest  medi- 
ocrity of  his  faithful  famuli,  and  in  his  good  wife's 
absence  of  intellect;  a  housewife  all  smiles,  bright, 
clean,  but  how  vulgar!  Nevertheless,  this  comfort  and 
sense  of  ease  were  dearly  bought.  Those  who  persist 
in  seeing  in  him  "the  supreme  artist  of  life"  are  quite 
unaware  of  the  hidden  misery  of  his  domestic  life; 
they  have  no  idea  of  all  the  compromises  and  the  af- 

Zu^  LU  fa  £$C  fc?&~f~  -— 

•a*-*»— *t^- 


=  43 
fronts  which  he  must  endure,  of  the  bitter  thoughts 
which  he  must  hide,  and,  when  things  become  unbear- 
able, of  his  flights  from  home,  lasting  often  for 
months.  .  .  .  No,  he  was  a  "supreme  artist"  only  in 
his  art;  his  life,  seen  at  close  range,  inspires  us  not  so 
much  with  admiration  as  with  pity/ 


So  Bettina,  in  spite  of  her  regrets,  her  constant  love, 
and  her  efforts  to  make  peace  with  Goethe  and  to  for- 
get the  quarrel,  was  exiled  from  the  circle  of  friends 
in  Weimar.  For  six  long  years  all  correspondence 
ceased  between  her  and  her  idol.53  Even  when  they 
began  to  write  to  each  other  again,  Bettina  never  re- 
captured the  good  graces  of  the  sorely  vexed  "Olym- 
pian." Beethoven  no  longer  had  an  advocate  to  plead 
his  cause  with  Goethe. 

And  just  at  that  moment  the  two  were  to  meet;  fate 
unexpectedly  decreed  that  they  should  come  together. 

In  July,  1812,  while  Goethe  was  at  Karlsbad,  he 
received  a  letter  from  his  grand  duke  asking  him  to 
come  at  once  to  Teplitz,  where  the  young  Empress 
of  Austria54  wished  to  meet  him.  Goethe  went  to 
Teplitz;  Beethoven  had  already  been  there  for  a  week. 
It  was  not  to  see  him  that  Goethe  went  there,  but, 
being  in  the  same  town,  he  remembered,  no  doubt,  the 

44  ^^ 

striking  picture  which  Bettina  had  drawn  of  Bee- 
thoven, and  the  latter's  ardent  desire  to  meet  him.  His 
mind  misgave  him,  but  the  inquisitive  eagerness  of  the 
expert  in  human  character  won  the  day. 

Teplitz  was  then  full  of  emperors  and  empresses, 
gorgeous  archdukes  and  court  ladies.55  Beethoven,  how- 
ever, was  not  one  of  those  who  were  impressed  by  their 
dazzling  plumage.  He  wrote  in  his  grumbling  way: 
"There  are  few  men,  and  among  those  few,  none  of 
outstanding  merit;  I  am  alone,  quite  alone."56 

It  was  then  that  he  wrote  to  a  little  eight-year-old 
girl  the  exquisite  letter  in  which  we  find  the  famous 
passage:  "I  can  admit  no  other  sign  of  superiority  than 
a  good  heart."57 

On  the  same  day,  in  a  letter  to  his  publishers,  he 
suddenly  exclaims,  in  the  midst  of  business  matters, 
"Goethe  is  here."58 

We  feel  how  stirred  he  was  by  his  presence. 

Goethe  acted  in  noble  fashion.  He  was  the  first  to 
call  (Sunday,  July  19th).  And  he,  too,  like  Bettina 
and  so  many  others  was  conquered  at  first  sight.  On 
the  same  day  he  wrote  to  his  wife: 

"Zusammengejasster,™  energischer,  inniger,  habe  ich 
noch  kelnen  Kiinstler  gesehen"  ("Never  before  have  I 
met  an  artist  of  more  powerful  concentration,  more 
energy  or  deeper  sincerity").00 

=  45 

This  is  saying  a  great  deal.  During  his  whole  life 
Goethe  had  never  honoured  any  other  man  by  such  a 
testimony  of  superiority. 

How  wonderful  was  his  insight,  how  torrential  his 
energy,  how  superhuman  his  power  of  concentration, 
how  fathomless  the  depth  of  his  inmost  feeling! 
Goethe,  surveying  the  world  of  men,  sees  more  freely, 
more  accurately,  more  deeply  than  he  understands;  in 
one  piercing  glance  he  has  grasped  the  essentials  in 
Beethoven's  genius  and  unique  personality. 

That  Goethe  was  greatly  impressed  is  shown  by  the 
fact  that  the  next  day,  July  20th,  they  went  out  walking 
together.  On  the  day  after,  the  21st,  Goethe  went  to 
see  Beethoven,  in  the  evening.  He  called  again  on 
Thursday,  the  23rd,  and  Beethoven  played  to  him  at 
the  piano. 

Four  days  later,  on  the  27th,  Beethoven  left  Teplitz 
for  Karlsbad,  where  his  medical  adviser  had  sent  him; 
Goethe  was  only  there  from  the  8th  to  the  11th  of  Sep- 
tember. Did  they  meet?  We  do  not  know.  On  the 
12th  Beethoven  left  Karlsbad  again  for  Teplitz,  to 
which  Goethe  did  not  return.  It  was  the  end.  During 
their  whole  life  the  two  men  were  never  to  meet  again. 

What  had  happened?  A  generous  impulse  had 
drawn  them  together.  The  first  few  days  revealed  an 
undeniable  attraction.  .  .  .  And  then,  silence. 


We  find  a  clue  in  two  letters  connected  with  Bettina. 
Their  authenticity  has  been  questioned,61  but  in  my 
opinion  this  truth  is  proved  by  circumstances  which  I 
shall  describe  later,  and  by  two  other  letters,  unfortu- 
nately only  too  authentic,  one  from  Beethoven  to  Breit- 
kopf  (August  9,  1812),  and  the  other  from  Goethe 
to  Zelter  (September  9,  1812) — not  to  mention  the 
gossip  then  current  in  Teplitz,  which  in  itself  is  elo- 
quent enough. 

I  shall  try  to  look  on  these  two  men,  and  to  describe 
them,  as  they  were,  with  all  their  greatness  and  their 
pettiness.  Defects  are  to  be  found  even  more  in  men  of 
genius  than  in  ordinary  men:  both  Beethoven  and 
Goethe  had  a  full  share  of  them. 

At  first,  as  I  have  said,  Goethe  was  the  more  gener- 
ous of  the  two.  He  held  out  his  hand  to  Beethoven. 
He  was  as  cordial  as  he  could  well  be,  considering  that 
he  was  naturally  inclined  to  stiffness,  except  in  his  art 
and  with  his  bosom  friends.  Beethoven  did  not  disap- 
point him,  nor  did  the  next  day's  impression  contradict 
the  first.  But  Beethoven  seems  to  have  been  less  favour- 
ably impressed  by  Goethe.  The  poet,  of  whom  he  had 
dreamed  since  childhood,  whom  he  had  likened  to  an 
eagle  flying  with  mighty  wings  in  the  teeth  of  the  blast, 
proved  to  be  a  Geheimrat,  much  concerned  with  eti- 
quette, and  profoundly  respectful  of  rank;  he  was  a 


=  47 
society  man,  very  polite,  stiff  to  the  last  degree,  who 
always  watched  himself  with  a  painful  care  lest  he 
should  unbend;  who,  after  having  heard  Beethoven 
play  (and  we  know  what  torrential  floods  his  improv- 
isations were) ,  told  him  very  courteously  that  he  had 
played  "most  charmingly"  (rf£r  spielte  kostlzcb")*2 

No  doubt,  Goethe,  who  was  quite  at  a  loss  to  express 
his  appreciation  of  music,  complimented  the  musician 
on  his  technique  and  on  his  clear-cut  playing,  with  the 
air  of  one  deeply  impressed.  But  the  aesthetic,  the  rea- 
soned judgment  which  Beethoven  looked  for  from  a 
man  like  Goethe,  was  not  forthcoming  because  Goethe 
had,  in  fact,  none  to  offer;  he  did  not  understand.  .  .  . 

Beethoven  exploded.  .  .  . 

Bettina  describes  the  scene.  She  had  not  been  there, 
but  afterwards  Beethoven  ran  hot  foot,  boiling  with 
rage,  to  tell  her  of  it.  She,  no  doubt,  succeeded  in  pour- 
ing oil  on  the  fire. 

Bettina  had  arrived  in  Teplitz  on  the  evening  of 
July  23rd  with  her  husband  and  her  sister,  Mme.  de 
Savigny.  She  did  not  know  that  she  would  find  Goethe 
and  Beethoven  there.  This  meeting  between  the  two, 
which  she  had  so  ardently  desired,  for  which  she  had 
worked  so  tenaciously,  had  at  last  taken  place.  And,  to 
her  bitter  disappointment,  she  was  shut  out.  Goethe 
avoided  her,  all  the  more  carefully  because  Christiana 

48  ^^ 

was  watching  him  from  afar.68  No  doubt  Bettina  had 
told  the  "Bacchus  of  music,"  as  she  nicknamed  Bee- 
thoven, that  she  felt  forsaken,  like  an  Ariadne;  and  it 
is  clear  that  Beethoven,  very  sensible  of  her  charms 
and  her  faithful  friendship,  had  taken  her  side.*4  There 
was  no  longer  any  reason  to  check  the  irritation  which 
the  evening  with  Goethe  had  roused  in  him;  he  ex- 
pressed himself  therefore  without  restraint. 

Here  is  the  extraordinary  scene,  written,  or  spoken, 
if  you  will,  in  the  most  genuine  Beethoven  style,  in 
which  the  two  great  men  appear  to  us  in  the  most 
unexpected  postures.  For  it  was  Goethe  whose  eyes 
filled  with  tears  while  Beethoven  lectured  him  sharply 
on  his  sentimentality. 

"He  finished  playing,"  wrote  Bettina.  "When  he  saw 
that  Goethe  was  deeply  moved,  he  said:  'Ah,  sir,  I 
had  not  expected  that  from  you.  .  .  .  Long  ago  I  gave 
a  concert  in  Berlin.  I  had  worked  hard,  and  thought 
that  I  had  done  well.  I  expected  a  success,  but  when  I 
had  expended  all  my  energy  there  was  not  the  slightest 
sign  of  approval!  ...  It  was  very  painful,  indeed, 
and  I  could  not  understand  it.  But  I  soon  found  the 
clue  to  the  secret:  The  Berlin  public  was  fein  gebildet 
(fashionably  cultured) ;  in  token  of  appreciation  they 
waved  their  tear-sodden  handkerchiefs  at  me.  I  saw 
that  I  had  a  "romantic,"65  not  an  artistic,  audience.  .  .  . 


But  coming  from  you,  Goethe,  I  do  not  like  it.  When 
your  poems  reach  my  brain  I  am  filled  with  pride  so 
intense  that  I  long  to  climb  to  the  height  of  your 
grandeur.  No  doubt,  I  was  unable  to  rise  to  such  a 
height  .  .  .  otherwise  enthusiasm,  in  you,  would  have 
found  a  different  mode  of  expression.  Yet  you  your- 
self must  know  how  stimulating  it  is  to  gain  the  ap- 
plause of  those  possessed  of  understanding!  If  you  do 
not  recognize  me,  if  you  do  not  reckon  me  as  your 
equal,  who  will?  To  what  beggarly  mob  (Bettelpack) 
must  I  play  to  find  understanding?'  "  .  .   * 

This  was  the  first  lesson  he  gave  Goethe.  What  man 
had  ever  spoken  to  him  before  in  such  terms?  .  .  . 
Bettina  described  Goethe's  embarrassment,  "for  he 
knew  perfectly  well  that  Beethoven  was  right."8T 

From  that  moment,  Beethoven  was  ill-disposed  to- 
wards Goethe;  even  the  smallest  incident  was  not 
allowed  to  pass  without  comment. 

They  went  out  together,  Beethoven  taking  Goethe's 
arm.  In  the  streets  of  Teplitz  and  in  the  country  lanes 
they  often  met  aristocratic  strollers.  Goethe  would  bow 
ceremoniously,  and  this  annoyed  Beethoven;  when  he 
spoke  of  the  court,  of  the  empress,  Goethe  used 
"solemnly    humble    (jeierlich    bescheideri)     expres- 


"What  are  you  up  to?"  ("£/  was!")  growled  Bee- 

50  = 

thoven.  "You  shouldn't  do  that.  It  is  not  right.  You 
should  throw  boldly  in  their  faces  what  you  have  in 
you,  otherwise  they  will  pay  no  attention.  There  is  not 
a  single  princess  who  will  recognize  the  genius  of 
Tasso  except  from  motives  of  vanity.  That  is  not  the 
way  I  treat  them.  When  I  was  giving  music  lessons  to 
the  archduke,  he  once  let  me  wait  in  the  anteroom.  So 
I  rapped  his  knuckles,  and  when  he  asked  why  I  was 
so  impatient,  I  told  him  that  I  had  wasted  my  time  in 
his  anteroom  and  had  no  patience  left.  After  that  he 
never  kept  me  waiting.  I  would  have  made  him  feel 
the  folly  and  stupidity  of  such  bad  manners  (Viehig- 
keit).  I  told  him:  'You  may  pin  an  order  to  anyone's 
breast;  he  will  not  be  a  fig  the  better  for  it.  You  can 
bestow  the  title  of  Hojrat  or  Geheimrat,  but  you  will 
never  make  a  Goethe,  or  a  Beethoven,  either.  You  must 
learn  to  appreciate,  therefore,  what  you  yourself  are 
unable  to  create.  It  will  be  good  for  you  (Das  ist  Ihnen 
gesundy '."  .  .  . 

That  was  the  second  lesson.  We  may  imagine  the 
frown  with  which  Goethe,  filled  with  respect  for 
hierarchies  and  the  social  order,  received  it. 

At  this  moment  the  empress,  the  dukes,  and  their 
suites  came  in  sight,  walking  towards  them.  Beethoven 
said  to  Goethe: 

=  51 

"Let  us  walk  on,  arm  in  arm.  They  will  have  to  get 
out  of  our  way,  not  we  out  of  theirs!" 

Goethe  did  not  approve  of  this,  Bettina  continues. 
The  scene  which  she  describes  is  well  known.  He  broke 
away  from  Beethoven,  and  stood  at  the  side  of  the 
road,  hat  in  hand.  Beethoven,  swinging  his  arms, 
charged  right  through  the  midst  of  the  princes,  like  a 
bull,  merely  touching  his  hat.  They  politely  made  room 
for  him,  and  all  greeted  him  in  friendly  fashion.  When 
he  had  passed  through  them,  Beethoven  stopped  and 
waited  for  Goethe,  who  was  still  bowing  ceremoni- 
ously. Then  he  said  to  him: 

"I  have  waited  for  you  because  I  honour  and  esteem 
you,  but  you  have  honoured  those  people  far  too 

That  was  the  third  lesson,  this  time  a  practical  one. 
It  was  a  case  of  action  as  well  as  words.  But  now  the 
measure  was  brimming  over.  The  reproach  may  have 
been  quite  justified,  but  a  man  like  Goethe  could  not 
allow  his  ears  to  be  pulled  like  a  schoolboy's! 

Did  Beethoven,  we  wonder,  realize,  even  faintly, 
how  many  hard  trials,  bitter  experiences,  and  dearly 
bought  lessons  were  at  the  bottom  of  Goethe's  social 
constraint  and  his  tame  acceptance  of  the  order  of 
things?  Even  if  Beethoven  were  right,  his  manner  of 
expressing  his  views  would  be  intolerable! 

52  ^^ 

Goethe  wrote  to  Zelter  (September  2,  1812): 
"I  have  made  Beethoven's  acquaintance.  His  talent 
amazes  me  but,  unfortunately,  he  has  no  self-control 
whatever.  He  is,  no  doubt,  quite  right  in  finding  the 
world  detestable,  but  by  behaving  as  he  does  he  really 
does  not  make  it  any  more  pleasant  for  himself  or  for 
others.  We  must  forgive  him  a  great  deal,  for  his  hear- 
ing is  getting  very  bad;  this  interferes  perhaps  less  with 
his  musical  than  with  his  social  side.  He  is  naturally 
laconic,  and  he  is  becoming  still  more  so  as  a  result  of 
his  deafness." 

Goethe's  tone  is  very  restrained.  He  could  not  have 
said  less  against  Beethoven,  and  we  must  acknowledge 
his  sense  of  justice/0  Note  his  admission:  "He  is,  no 
doubt,  quite  right  in  rinding  the  world  detestable." 

Here  again  is  Goethe's  carefully  repressed  pessi- 
mism. Is  there  anyone  who  has  deciphered  Goethe's 
inner  self?  .  .  . 

Who  can  have  detected,  under  the  poetic  laurels 
heaped  upon  him,  under  the  features  of  the  gloomy 
Apollo  which  he  wore,  the  bitter  lines  of  his  mouth, 
the  marks  of  disappointment  and  disillusion,  and  the 
weaknesses  so  desperately  concealed?  This  man  de- 
tested emotion  and  abhorred  the  sight  of  disease  and 
death;71  the  fissures  in  the  social  structure  and  in  his 
own  "ego,"  the  possession  by  evil  spirits — a  constant 

=  53 

obsession  of  his — caused  him  the  utmost  alarm;  it  was 
because  he  found  them  all  within  himself.  Only  his 
wisdom  and  self-control  could  erect  the  dikes  which 
would  save  him  from  drowning.72  Goethe,  the  monarch 
of  life,  knew  only  too  well  on  what  fragile  foundations 
his  empire  rested,  and  what  the  building  of  it  had  cost 
him.  Like  the  master  builder  in  the  old  legend,  he  had 
walled  into  the  heart  of  the  structure  many  a  woman's 
body!  What  a  price  did  he  pay,  not  for  his  egoistic 
peace  of  mind  (as  the  vulgar  call  it,  who  cannot  rise 
to  such  heights),  but  for  the  serenity  of  his  work  and 
its  accomplishment.  No  doubt,  he  is  not  so  robust,  not 
so  roughly  hewn,  not  so  virile  as  Beethoven.  Bee- 
thoven's was  one  long  fight;  every  step  cost  him  dear; 
he  was  wounded  again  and  again;  he  never  wavered, 
but  rushed,  breast  forward,  straight  upon  the  enemy. 
Goethe  never  fought,  never  argued.  Pride  and  weak- 
ness both  forbade  a  hand-to-hand  encounter.  He  did 
not  commit  himself  with  the  adversaries  whom  he  de- 
spised nor,  more  dangerous  still,  with  those  whom  he 
loved.  He  had  but  one  resource,  only  one,  always  the 
same;  when  he  met  an  obstacle,  he  fled,  fled  without 
even  looking  back.  He  effaced  the  recollection  of  the 
encounter  from  his  sight  and  his  mind.73  His  mental  ex- 
istence was  a  perpetual  conquest,  his  life  among  men  a 
constant  flight.  He  stood  aside  and  remained  silent. . .  . 

54  ^^ 

But  Beethoven  would  never  realize  this.  Who  did,  in 
fact?  Of  all  men,  Beethoven  would  be  the  last  to  under- 
stand him. 

After  this  meeting,  Beethoven  did  not  mince  matters. 
He  was  certainly  much  less  restrained  than  Goethe. 

"Goethe  is  much  too  fond  of  the  court  atmosphere,74 
far  fonder  than  is  compatible  with  the  dignity  of  a 
poet  {Goethe  behagt  die  Hofluft  zu  sehr.  Mehr  als  es 
einem  Dichter  ziemt).  If  poets,  who  should  be  the 
foremost  teachers  (Lehrer}  of  a  nation,  can  forget 
everything  for  dross  such  as  this,  let  us  never  again 
refer  to  the  foibles  of  musicians."75 

He  wrote  this  to  his  publishers.  It  was  rash  enough 
on  his  part  to  confide  such  impressions  to  strangers, 
but  he  did  not  leave  it  at  that.  Beethoven  had  one  great 
weakness;  when  he  had  said  something  unpleasant  to 
another,  he  was  never  content  to  let  the  matter  rest 
there;  he  must  publish  it  to  the  world  at  large. 

After  "giving  Goethe  a  good  talking-to"  he  hurried 
to  the  Arnims  to  tell  them  the  "joke,"  for  that  was  all 
it  was — to  him.  "He  was  as  pleased  as  a  little  boy  at 
having  'teased'  Goethe  in  this  way."76  We  can  guess 
whether  the  Arnims  kept  the  "joke"  to  themselves! 
Their  quarrel  with  Goethe  had  made  them  more  in- 
tolerant of  his  weaknesses,  and  his  abject  attitude 

•</,//.    ////./A. :/.,;.■   J.  ■■,  I.  .../.,/.-..■  , 

=  55 

towards  the  court  displeased  them;  so  they  gave  a  lively 
account  of  it  in  their  letters  from  Teplitz.77 

It  would  not  have  mattered  so  much  if  Beethoven 
had  restricted  his  gossip  to  Bettina's  circle  and  to  his 
own  intimate  friends.  But  he  took  the  story  with  him 
wherever  he  went.  The  jeweller,  Joseph  Turck  of 
Vienna,  who  during  the  season  had  a  shop  in  Teplitz, 
told  the  following  tale  of  Beethoven's  joke  with 
Goethe  to  all  and  sundry.  While  Goethe  and  Bee- 
thoven were  walking  out  together,  greeted  at  every 
step,  Goethe  said,  rather  pointedly,  that  he  was  tired 
of  this  constant  bowing.  Beethoven  slyly  remarked: 
"Don't  be  annoyed,  Excellency.  Perhaps  they  are  bow- 
ing to  me!" 

We  can  imagine  his  hearty  laugh,  the  laugh  of  a 
boy  who  has  never  grown  up,  his  delight  at  having 
made  a  joke  at  His  Excellency's  expense.  And,  having 
had  his  laugh,  he  forgot  the  matter.  .  .  . 

He  forgot  it,  but  the  joke  went  the  rounds  and 
returned  to  Goethe  and  Goethe  did  not  laugh,  nor  did 
his  devoted  followers.  .  .  .78  The  previous  year  Bee- 
thoven had  formed  a  close  friendship  in  Teplitz  with 
the  young  Lieutenant  Varnhagen  von  Ense  and  his 
"passion"  Rahel,  whose  beautiful  face  recalled  one 
who  was  dear  to  him.79  On  the  German  Olympus, 
where  Bettina  played  the  part  of  a  daring  little  Hebe, 

56  ^= 

sitting  on  his  knees  and  drinking  from  Jupiter's  cup 
like  a  honey  bee,  Rahel  was  Minerva,  sprung  from 
the  god's  head,  standing  on  guard  at  the  foot  of  the 
throne,  ever  watchful  against  possible  familiarities. 
From  the  moment  when  Beethoven  had  dared  to  attack 
their  god's  prestige,  Rahel  and  Varnhagen  knew  Bee- 
thoven no  longer.  Rahel  never  mentions  him  again  in 
her  diary/ 


Silence.  It  is  Goethe's  deadly  weapon,  his  mighty 
arm.  He  had  given  his  Minerva  lessons  in  this.  He 
himself,  too,  was  silent  henceforth,  and  for  many  years 
never  mentioned  Beethoven.  In  1813  Zelter,  who  had 
at  last  discovered  the  Overture  to  Egmont,  spoke  to 
Goethe  of  it.81  Goethe  made  no  reply.82  Zelter,  though 
eventually  he  found  his  "road  to  Damascus"83  was  not 
the  man  to  exact  from  Goethe  an  admiration  which  was 
not  in  him. 

One  person  only  could  hope  to  do  this,  by  the  right 
of  her  beauty  and  her  love — Marianna  von  Willemer,84 
the  Zuleika  of  the  Divan.  When  her  old  lover  sent  her 
his  Lieder  from  the  Divan,  set  to  music  by  some  undis- 
tinguished composer,  she  had  the  courage  to  say,  "Yes, 
no  doubt  it  is  quite  nice,  but  .  .  . 

".  .  .  if  I  am  to  be  quite  frank,  I  should  like  Bee- 

=  57 

thoven  to  write  the  melodies  to  these  magnificent 
poems:  he  would  understand  them  fully;  nobody  else 
could  (Sonst  niemand) !  I  felt  that  very  strongly  last 
winter,  when  I  heard  the  music  to  Egmont;  it  is  heav- 
enly {himmlisch) ;  he  has  absolutely  grasped  your 
meaning.  It  can  almost  be  said  that  one  and  the  same 
spirit  has  inspired  (beseelt)  your  words  and  given  life 
to  (Jbelebt)  his  music.  .  .  ."85 

Goethe  replied86  with  his  accustomed  intelligence 
and  amiability,  that  more  often  than  not  the  music  writ- 
ten to  Lieder  is  misleading;  the  poet  is  rarely  under- 
stood, and  only  the  composer's  mood  (Stimmung)  is 

"However,"  he  adds,  "I  have  also  found  many  valu- 
able works,  in  which  I  am  clearly  reflected  (vielmal 
abges  pie  gelt)  ;  but  the  reflection  is  reduced  or  enlarged 
and  is  rarely  quite  true  to  life.  In  this  respect  Bee- 
thoven has  accomplished  miracles  (Beethoven  hat 
darin  W under  gethan)." 

The  praise  is  ambiguous.  Goethe  appears  to  see  him- 
self in  Beethoven  as  if  in  a  magnifying  or  distorting 

Marianna,  however,  did  not  allow  the  matter  to  rest. 
A  year  later  she  returned  to  the  charge.  Speaking  of 
the  return  of  spring  she  wrote: 

"If  you  would  feel  the  new-born  spring  even  more 

58  ^= 

intensely,  ask  some  one  with  a  beautiful  soft  voice  to 
sing  you  Beethoven's  Lieder  an  die  feme  Geliebte  (To 
the  beloved  distant).  This  music  seems  to  me  un- 
surpassable; the  only  other  music  to  which  it  can  be 
compared  is  that  to  Egmont.  .  .  .  But  it  must  be  sung 
simply  and  with  feeling,  and  must  be  very  well  played. 
How  I  should  like  to  know  that  it  has  given  you  pleas- 
ure and  what  you  think  of  it." 

We  shall  never  know  what  he  thought  of  it.  But 
I  like  to  think  that  the  more  conciliatory  attitude  and 
even  the  respect  which  Goethe  showed  for  the  name  of 
Beethoven  in  1820  and  1821  was  due  to  this  noble 
woman.  It  is  true  that  he  did  not  accept  his  art,  but  he 
no  longer  dismissed  it  with  a  word  of  contempt.  He 
even  made  an  effort,  brief  and  not  very  serious,  it  is 
true,  to  understand  him,  and  for  this  we  must  give  him 

When  young  Johann  Christian  Lobe,  who  in  spite 
of  bashfulness  had  the  courage  of  his  convictions, 
dared  to  point  out  to  him  very  respectfully  how  feeble 
and  "antiquiert"  (fossilized)  Zelter's  music  was,  and 
that  the  younger  generation  preferred  the  music  of 
Beethoven  and  Weber,  Goethe  asked  him  to  give  his 
reasons,  which  Lobe  did,  very  intelligently.87 

"In  Zelter's  Lieder"  he  said,  "the  musical  accom- 
paniment is  merely  a  harmonic  and  rhythmic  filling-in. 

V:;  ■■*■ 



-  -11 




=  59 

Modern  composers  have  given  it  the  dignity  of  an 
auxiliary  expression  (Mitsprache)  of  the  sentiment. 
If  Goethe  were  to  have  only  the  bass  and  the  accom- 
paniment of  one  of  Zelter's  Lieder  played  to  him,  with- 
out the  melody,  he  would  find  it  difficult  to  discover 
the  least  connection  between  it  and  the  sentiment. 
On  the  other  hand,  in  the  music  of  Beethoven  and 
Weber  the  pulse-beats  of  the  sentiment  (Leben  und 
Re gun g  des  Gefiihls)  can  be  clearly  felt  in  the  accom- 
paniment. And  yet  this  is  only  the  babbling  (Lallen) 
of  music's  childhood.  Music  will  one  day  reach  a  stage 
in  which  each  note  of  the  accompaniment  will  play  an 
integral  part  in  the  expression  of  the  sentiment." 

Here  we  find  a  prophecy  of  the  task  of  Wagner's 
orchestra,  a  prophecy  made  in  1820! 

Goethe  listened,  silent  and  attentive,  with  bowed 
head.  Then  he  went  to  the  piano,  opened  it,  and  said: 
"Give  me  an  example.  If  your  deductions  are  correct, 
you  should  be  able  to  prove  them." 

Lobe  then  played  the  accompaniment  of  a  Lied  by 
Zelter,  and  that  of  the  Lied  from  Egmont,  Drums  and 
Fifes  (Trommeln  und  Pfeifen).  After  that  he  played 
the  two  melodies. 

No  doubt  Goethe  was  not  convinced  and  was  only 
too  ready  to  condemn  the  new  tendencies  on  the 
strength  of  this  isolated  example,  which  may  perhaps 

60  ^ 

have  been  played  indifferently.88  Still,  it  was  a  great 
deal  for  him  to  go  even  so  far  as  to  seek  information. 
If  practice  did  not  interest  him,  theory  did. 

Some  months  later,  at  the  end  of  September,  1820, 
Goethe  received  F.  Foerster,  a  musician  from  Berlin. 
Talking  to  him  of  the  wrong  interpretation  which 
Prince  Radziwill  had  given  to  a  dialogue  from  Faust 
which  the  latter  had  set  to  music,  Goethe  pointed  out 
the  perfect  appropriateness  of  Beethoven's  music  to 
Egmont's  monologue  in  the  prison  scene.89  He  recited 
the  monologue  in  a  moving  fashion  and  said: 

"Here  I  have  added  a  note  that  the  music  is  to  play 
while  the  hero  falls  asleep.  Beethoven  understood  me 
and  interpreted  most  admirably  my  meaning  (Bee- 
thoven ist  mit  bewunderungswerten  Genie  in  meine 
Intentionen  eingegangen)." 

A  year  later  the  poet  Ludwig  Rellstab,  who  was  one 
of  Beethoven's  great  admirers,90  had  a  conversation 
with  Goethe  (the  end  of  October,  1821): 

"We  spoke  a  great  deal  of  Beethoven,  whom  he 
knew  personally.  He  was  proud  to  possess  some  of  his 
manuscripts.  On  this  occasion  he  sent  for  Geheimrat 
Schmidt  to  play  a  sonata  by  Beethoven."01 

We  see,  then,  that  Beethoven's  music  was  by  no 
means  banned  from  his  house  as  often  has  been  stated. 
Here  is  a  further  proof. 

=  61 

At  the  beginning  of  November,  1821,  a  few  days 
aftet  Rellstab's  first  visit,  Goethe  invited  a  gathering  of 
friends  to  listen  to  young  Mendelssohn,  then  a  boy  of 
twelve.  Rellstab  gives  us  a  vivid  account  of  this  event. 
After  the  child  artist  had  played  and  improvised  ad- 
mirably, Goethe  fetched  some  of  his  precious  auto- 
graph manuscripts. 

"Now,  look  at  this,  my  boy!  This  will  beat  you." 
And  he  placed  on  the  piano  the  manuscript  of  a  Lied 
by  Beethoven.92  The  writing  was  almost  illegible! 
Mendelssohn  burst  into  laughter. 

Said  Goethe,  "Guess  who  wrote  that." 

And  Zelter,  unpleasant  as  usual,  replied:  "Beethoven. 
He  always  writes  as  if  he  used  a  broomstick  for  a  pen." 

On  hearing  this,  young  Felix  was  struck  silent  with 
awe.  It  was  a  sudden  seriousness;  it  was  more;  it  was 
"a  solemn  marvelling"  (heiliges  Stauneri) ;  his  eyes 
were  fixed,  riveted.  .  .  .  Gradually  an  expression  of 
"joyous  wonder  illumined  his  face,  as  little  by  little 
he  unravelled  from  the  crabbed  writing  the  lofty 
melody,  like  the  sun  rising  in  splendour."  Goethe's 
eyes,  radiant  with  joy  (Jreudestrahlend)  never  left  his 
face.  So  impatient  was  he  that  he  did  not  give  him  time 
to  collect  his  thoughts: 

"You  see,  you  see,  if  I  hadn't  told  you,  you  would 
have  been  caught.  .  .  .  Come  now,  try  it." 

62  ^^ 

Felix  began  to  play  hesitatingly;  he  stopped,  cor- 
rected his  mistakes,  discussing  them  aloud,  played  to 
the  end,  then  played  the  piece  again,  this  time  right 
through  without  interruption.  During  the  whole  eve- 
ning Goethe  was  overjoyed,  and  never  ceased  to  discuss 
the  feat  with  his  guests. 

This  shows  how  exaggerated  has  been  the  supposed 
ostracism  of  Beethoven's  music  in  the  house  at 
Weimar.  Goethe  thought  so  little  of  his  estrangement 
with  Beethoven  that  when,  in  1822,  the  young  French 
violinist  Alexandre  Boucher,  fearing  that  Beethoven 
would  not  consent  to  receive  him  in  spite  of  his  letters 
of  introduction,  sought  Goethe's  assistance  in  the 
matter,  the  latter  gave  him  a  note  to  Beethoven,  which 
at  once  opened  to  him  the  doors  of  the  great  com- 
poser's house  (April  29,  1822 ).93 

How  then  are  we  to  explain  Goethe's  extraordinary 
silence  when  Beethoven,  in  1823,  unwell  and  worried 
by  lack  of  money,  wrote  him  a  letter  in  the  humblest 
terms  (February  8th)  asking  him  to  speak  on  his  be- 
half to  the  Grand  Duke  of  Weimar,  and  beg  him  to 
subscribe  for  the  publication  of  his  Missa  Solemms? 
On  reading  this  entreaty  we  feel  a  sense  of  shame,  not 
so  much  for  the  writer,  as  for  the  recipient;  it  is  painful 
to  see  a  great  man  humiliate  himself. 

What  a  moving  effort  this  was,  to  interest  Goethe  in 

=  63 

his  humble  domestic  life,  and  in  his  sixteen-year-old 
nephew,  whose  knowledge  of  Greek  he  proudly 
praised  ("But  it  is  very  expensive  to  educate  a  boy"). 
What  respectful  affection  he  expressed  for  Goethe, 
what  vivid  recollections  of  "the  happy  hours  spent  in 
his  company,"  what  "Adoration,  love,  and  high  es- 
teem" ("Verehrung,  Liebe,  und  Hochachtung"),  which 
the  awkward  wording  makes  even  more  touching,  and, 
above  all,  what  fear  that  the  expression  of  this  affection 
and  the  dedication  to  Goethe  of  the  two  great  works 
Meeresstille,  and  Gliickliche  Fahrt?*  might  give  the  im- 
pression of  having  been  prompted  by  mercenary  rea- 
sons. It  seems  as  if  no  generously-minded  man  could 
even  for  a  single  day  have  left  the  sting  of  suffering 
to  rankle  in  a  noble  and  confiding  heart.  One  would 
have  thought  that  even  if  Goethe  had  no  interest  what- 
ever in  a  Missa  Solemms,  he  would  have  opened  his 
arms  to  Beethoven,  saying: 

"I  thank  you  for  having  come  to  me  for  help.  Make 
no  apologies.  If  you  humble  yourself  before  me,  it  is  I 
whom  am  humbled." 

Goethe  never  replied.  For  this  his  enemies  find  a 
very  convenient  explanation.  They  say  that  he  was  "un- 
kind";05 his  admirers  in  their  embarrassment  avoid  the 
question,  and  state  that  his  health  was  very  poor. 

And,  indeed,  about  the  month  of  February,  1823, 

64  ^= 

Goethe  became  seriously  ill;  but  let  us  enquire  into  the 
circumstances  more  closely. 

Beethoven's  letter  arrived  in  Weimar  on  February 
15th.  Goethe  had  been  feeling  unwell  since  the  13th. 
By  the  18th  he  was  very  ill,  even  dangerously  so.  As 
was  always  the  case  with  Goethe,  any  illness  came  on 
very  suddenly  and  violently,  but  usually  did  not  last 
long.  For  eight  days  and  eight  nights  he  never  left  his 
armchair;  he  was  feverish  and  delirious.  His  two  medi- 
cal advisers  were  very  concerned,  and  he  himself  told 
them:  "You  will  not  be  able  to  save  me.  Death  is  wait- 
ing for  me;  death  is  lurking  at  every  corner.  I  am  lost." 
Nevertheless,  he  struggled  on.  He  showed  on  the  tenth 
day  that  he  was  recovering  by  inveighing  furiously 
against  his  doctors,  who  had  forbidden  him  a  certain 
beverage  which  he  wanted.  "If  I  am  to  die,  I  want  to 
die  in  my  own  way."  He  had  his  drink  and  felt  better. 
Before  the  end  of  the  month  he  was  already  speaking 
of  his  illness  as  if  it  were  a  matter  of  ancient  history, 
and  he  soon  took  up  his  old  life — and  how  vehemently! 

Goethe  was  then  seventy-five.  He  fell  in  love  with  a 
girl  of  nineteen,  Ulrike  von  Levetzow.  He  spent  the 
months  of  June  and  July  with  her,  at  Marienbad;  this 
love  affair  upset  him  as  if  he  had  been  a  young  man; 
for  no  reason  whatever,  he  would  weep;  music  reduced 
him  to  tears.  One  month  of  separation  was  more  than 


=  65 

he  could  endure.  In  September  he  met  the  Levetzows 
again  in  Karlsbad,  and  the  old  man  danced  with  the 
girls.  Do  not  let  us  accuse  him  of  senility.  The  pas- 
sionate, the  great,  the  magnificent  Elegie  which  his  tor- 
ments inspired  is  a  glorious  work;  it  possesses  the  over- 
whelming passion,  displayed  in  Werther,  and  the 
plenitude  of  art  which  distinguishes  the  great  works  of 
his  maturity.  He  lived  in  a  tempest,  and  scattered  the 
tempest  about  him.  There  were  some  very  unpleasant 
scenes  at  home;  his  son  became  furious  when  he  heard 
that  the  old  man  intended  to  marry  again.  When  he 
asked  for  the  hand  of  Ulrike  her  parents  politely  dis- 
suaded him.  Goethe  was  deeply  distressed.  Towards 
the  end  of  the  year  he  was  again  stricken  by  serious 
illness.  In  his  house  nobody  looked  after  him.  Zelter, 
who  came  unexpectedly  to  see  him,  was  horrified 
when  he  saw  how  abandoned  was  his  old  friend.  The 
two  old  men  fell  into  each  other's  arms  and  opened 
their  hearts  to  each  other.  Goethe  confessed  how  un- 
happy he  was.  His  last  dream  of  joy  was  broken;  hence- 
forth he  would  have  to  live  a  life  of  renunciation  in 
deadly  loneliness.  "If  Goethe  had  died  then,"  writes 
Emil  Ludwig,  "he  would  have  died  a  vanquished 

Goethe  lived,  thank  God,  and  soon  he  cut,  as  it  were, 

66  ^= 

in  the  glacier  of  his  grief  steps  by  which  he  rose  to 
summits  which  hitherto  he  had  never  attained. 

We  see,  however,  that  if  his  illness  in  February  was 
an  inadequate  reason  for  disregarding  Beethoven's 
letter,  the  upsetting  events  of  the  year,  and  the  fevered 
weakness  of  his  disordered  heart,  explain  how,  in  the 
midst  of  all  this  storm  and  turmoil,  Beethoven's  request 
was  overlooked.  It  may,  of  course,  be  contended  that 
this  passionate  egoism  lacked  the  resources  of  love  and 
charity  which  would  have  provided  him  with  a  noble 
diversion  from  his  own  sufferings,  in  alleviating  those 
of  others.  But  when  we  realize  that  this  boundless 
egoism,  the  mirror  of  the  universe,  was  the  guiding 
principle  of  a  world-wide  intelligence,  of  a  spirit  full 
of  light  and  beauty,  we  no  longer  dare  to  condemn  it. 
As  well  condemn  the  lordly  indifference  of  the  sun. 

My  blame  is  reserved  for  Zelter,  the  faithful  but 
timid  friend.  For  mediocrity  cannot  claim  the  excuses 
which  we  make  for  genius.  If  mediocrity  be  not  good 
and  loyal,  what  else  can  be  said  for  it?  Zelter  was  all 
the  more  in  duty  bound  to  remind  Goethe  of  Bee- 
thoven's request  because  he  himself  knew  of  Beetho- 
ven's letter  and  understood  its  pathetic  appeal.  Since 
he  had  met  Beethoven  in  1819  his  feelings  towards 
him  had  undergone  a  complete  change.  An  excellent 
man,  though  unprepossessing,  Zelter  had  been  moved 

=  67 
to  tears  by  Beethoven's  physical  disabilities  and  by  his 
kindness.80  From  that  time  he  showed  him  a  brotherly 
devotion;  he  subscribed  to  the  Missa  Solemnis,  and  put 
his  Singchor  of  160  voices,  which  was  then  the  best 
choral  society  in  Germany,  at  Beethoven's  disposal; 
henceforth  he  included  regularly  in  his  programs  the 
works  of  the  great  composer  whom  he  now  compared 
to  Michelangelo. 

And  yet,  so  weak  and  cowardly  is  man,  he  was  care- 
ful not  to  mention  the  Missa  Solemnis  to  Goethe.  And, 
when  Beethoven  died,  Zelter  did  not  dare  to  speak  of 
him  to  Goethe,  although  in  secret  his  soul  saluted  the 
shade  of  the  demigod.  It  would  appear  that  during  the 
whole  year  the  name  of  Beethoven  was  never  men- 
tioned between  them.87 

How  terrible,  how  inhuman  is  this  silence,  yet  who 
can  tell  how  often  Goethe  himself  had  laid  the  tomb- 
stone of  silence  upon  death,  burying  thus  his  secret 
thoughts  with  the  death  of  his  nearest  and  dearest.  At 
the  age  of  sixty  he  said  to  Riemer:88 

"Only  those  with  the  acutest  sensibility  can  prove 
excessively  hard  and  excessively  cold.  They  must,  as 
it  were,  don  thick  armour  in  order  to  ward  off  harsh 
assaults,  and  only  too  often  does  this  armour  weigh 
heavily  upon  them." 

To  hide  is,  with  Goethe,  an  instinctive  method  of 

68  = 

defence;  the  imperious  call  to  concealment  sometimes 
disguises  his  anxiety.  At  the  same  time  his  genial  su- 
periority turns  this  instinct  into  the  impulse  which  gave 
rise  to  his  most  moving  lyric  flights.  The  whole  nature 
of  the  man  was  an  instrument  which  he  sacrificed  in 
the  service  of  art  and  thought.  He  thrust  aside  his  sor- 
rows, his  loves,  and  his  fears.  .  .  .  Who,  indeed,  har- 
boured more  sorrow,  love,  and  fear  than  this  Faust,  so 
intrepid  and  restless,  round  whom  the  Satanic  poodle* 
ran  in  magic  circles.  .  .  .  The  symbolic  poodle  who, 
in  old  age,  never  left  the  shadow  of  his  steps? 

I  have  in  my  possession  a  beautiful  letter  from 
Goethe  to  Wilhelm  von  Humboldt,  written  on  October 
22,  1826,  a  few  months  before  Beethoven's  death. 
Humboldt  was  trying  to  dissuade  Goethe  from  his  atti- 
tude of  aloofness  on  the  subject  of  Indian  philosophy. 
Goethe  answered: 

"I  have  nothing  whatever  against  Indian  thought, 
but  I  am  afraid  of  it  (aber  ich  furchte  mich  davor). 
It  would  involve  my  imagination  in  the  pursuit  of  the 
formless  and  the  misshapen  (denn  es  zieht  meine  Ein- 
bildungskrajt  ins  Formlose  und  Difforme);  I  must 
guard  myself  more  earnestly  than  ever  against  this 
(wovor  ich  mich  mehr  als  jemals  zu  huten  habe).'m 

*  Translator's  Note. — Romain  Rolland  refers  here  to  Mephistopheles 
in  Goethe's  great  poem,  who  first  approaches  Faust  in  the  form  of  a  poodle, 
running  in  circles  round  his  victim  and  drawing  closer  and  closer. 


Always  and  ever  more  keenly,  as  his  life  draws  to 
its  end,  does  he  feel  this  secret  attraction  and  the  fear 
of  the  abyss. 

For  Goethe,  Beethoven  was  the  abyss. 

The  famous  scene  of  which  Mendelssohn  has  told  us 
proves  this.  It  shows  us  the  old  man's  apprehension, 
and  his  desperate  fight  to  keep  behind  bars  the  savage 
demons  which,  many  years  later,  were  to  bring  the  aged 
Tolstoi  low  when  he  wrote  the  Kreutzer  Sonata. 

It  was  in  1830,  three  years  after  Beethoven's  death. 
"In  the  morning  I  had  to  play  to  him,  for  nearly  an 
hour,  music  by  the  great  composers  in  chronological 
order.  .  .  .  He  was  sitting  in  a  dark  corner  like  a 
Jupiter  with  his  thunderbolts.  From  time  to  time  light- 
ning flashes  darted  from  his  old  eyes.  He  refused  to 
let  me  mention  Beethoven,  but  I  told  him  that  I  could 
not  help  it,  and  played  the  first  movement  of  the  C 
Minor  Symphony.  This  moved  him  strangely.  At  first 
he  said:  'This  does  not  cause  any  emotion,  only  aston- 
ishment (das  bewegt  aber  gar  nichts,  das  macht  nur 
stauneri) ;  it  is  superb!'  For  a  while  he  continued  to 
growl  in  this  way.  Then,  after  a  long  silence,  he  went 
on:  'It  is  stupendous,  absolutely  mad.  It  makes  me  al- 
most fear  that  the  house  will  collapse.  And  supposing 
the  whole  of  mankind  played  it  at  once!  .  .  .10°  {Das 
ist  sehr  gross,  ganz  toll!  Man  mochte  sich  jurchten  das 

70  ^= 

Haus  fiele  ein.  Und  wenn  das  nun  alle  die  Menschen 
zusammen  spielen!)  .  .  .  Later  on,  during  dinner,  he 
started  growling  again.  .  .  ." 

The  stroke  had  gone  home.  He  should  have  admitted 
it,  but  he  refused  to  do  so.  He  was  compelled  to  cheat, 
so  that  the  ordered  destiny  of  his  thought  might  be 

The  conclusion  to  which  I  have  come,  is  this:  Of  the 
two  men,  the  exalted  and  often  wavering  Beethoven- 
Dionysus  and  Goethe,  the  Olympian,  it  is  Goethe  who 
concealed  the  greater  moral  weakness.  But  only  those 
possessing  the  strongest  character  recognize  their  own 
weakness  and  fix  the  boundaries  of  their  spiritual  do- 
minion. Beethoven's  dominion  was  the  boundless  sky 
( Me  in  Reich  ist  in  der  Lujt) .  Hence  his  extraordinary 
fascination  and  his  generosity,  hence  also  the  dangers 
about  him.  The  century  of  music  which  came  after 
him  fell  a  victim  to  them.  Only  Wagner  was  strong 
enough  to  take  up  and  grasp  the  sceptre  which  the 
sorcerer  apprentices*  had  allowed  to  fall  to  the 

*  Translator's  Note. — Romain  Rolland  refers  here  to  Der  Zauber- 
lehrl'tng  ("The  sorcerer-apprentice"),  a  magnificent  poem  by  Goethe.  The 
theme  is  that  an  apprentice — I.e.,  one  who  is  not  a  master  of  his  profession, 
should  refrain  from  attempting  to  do  great  things,  otherwise  disaster  will 

=  71 

Beethoven,  however,  was  never  aware  of  the  dangers 
which  he  let  loose.  Nor  did  he  guess,  let  us  hope,  the 
existence  of  the  secret  dislike  which  separated  him 
from  the  great  man  whom  he  venerated  more  than  any 
other  mortal.  That  he  should  have  suffered  from 
Goethe's  obstinate  silence  and  his  failure  to  reply  to 
his  letters  we  can  well  understand.  Yet  Beethoven,  so 
easily  roused  to  anger,  who  would  not  tolerate  from 
anyone,  even  were  he  one  of  the  world's  masters,  the 
neglect  of  the  consideration  to  which  he  was  entitled, 
never  showed  any  sign  of  resentment  at  Goethe's  in- 
comprehensible attitude.  Never  once  did  he  complain. 
In  his  Conversation  Note-Book*  of  1819  we  read  that 
once  somebody  in  his  presence  attempted  to  speak  dis- 
paragingly of  Goethe:  "Goethe  should  give  up  writ- 
ing; the  fate  which  awaits  singers  who  have  grown  old 
will  overtake  him,  too." 

No  doubt  Beethoven  must  have  interrupted  him 
violently  with  words  of  protest,  for  the  other  person 
apologized  and  hastened  to  write,  "He  remains,  never- 
theless, Germany's  greatest  poet."102 

The  days  at  Teplitz  are  not  forgotten;  but  all  that 
Beethoven  remembers  of  them  is  the  light;  the  shadows 
of  the  scene  have  all  disappeared.  The  memory  of 

*  Translator's  Note. — Beethoven  was  then  completely  deaf.  His  visitors 
wrote  whatever  they  wished  to  say  into  his  note-book.  He  would  then 
answer  aloud. 

72  ^= 

Goethe's  weaknesses  is  gone;  his  own  scoffing  and 
teasing  he  has  frankly  forgotten.  Of  Goethe  he  remem- 
bers only  his  greatness  and  his  kindness. 

"So  you  know  the  great  Goethe?"  he  exclaimed  in  a 
conversation  with  Rochlitz  (1822).  He  beat  his  breast, 
beaming  with  joy,  "I  know  him,  too;  I  met  him  in 
Karlsbad103  God  knows  how  long  ago.  I  was  not  as 
deaf  as  I  am  today,  but  my  hearing  was  even  then  very 
poor.  How  patient  the  great  man  was  with  me.  You 
can  hardly  believe  how  happy  it  made  me.  I  would 
have  given  my  life  for  him  ten  times  over." 

Thus  each  passed  on  his  way  without  clear  view  of 
the  other.  Beethoven,  whose  love  was  the  greater,  could 
but  wound  his  friend.  Goethe,  whose  insight  was  the 
keener,  never  understood  the  one  who  was  nearest  to 
him,  the  great  man  who  alone  was  his  peer,  who  alone 
was  worthy  of  his  friendship  and  his  love. 

"We  all  make  mistakes,  but  everyone  makes  different 
mistakes,"  wrote  the  dying  Beethoven  on  his  bed  of 
suffering,  like  old  King  Lear.104 


GOETHE     (1810) 


"Silence!  It  is  Goethe's  deadly  weapon,  his  mighty 
arm."  I  wrote  these  words  in  1927  in  my  essay  on 
Goethe's  attitude  towards  Beethoven,  after  their  meet- 
ing in  Teplitz — that  is  from  the  end  of  1812  to  Beetho- 
ven's death. 

Since  then  I  have  made  a  closer  study  of  the  subject, 
with  a  more  intimate  knowledge  of  Goethe's  musical 
life  during  these  fifteen  years  (1812-27).  I  have  ven- 
tured further  into  the  dark  secrets  of  his  silence.  Here 
is  the  result  of  my  latest  researches. 

The  outstanding  discovery  is  this: 

During  this  period  of  fifteen  years  Goethe,  at  Wei- 
mar, had  all  the  means  of  obtaining  abundant  infor- 
mation about  Beethoven,  about  both  the  man  and  his 


76  ^= 

work.  There  is  every  good  reason  to  believe  that  he  did 
obtain  it. 

From  1813  Goethe's  constant  companion  was  a  close 
friend  of  his,  Johann  Heinrich  Friedrich  Schiitz,  an 
inspector  of  Berka  Spa,  a  three  hours'  journey  from 
Weimar.  Schiitz  was  an  excellent  pianist  and  organist. 
They  often  met  and  Schiitz  played  to  him  the  works  of 
German  composers,  hour  after  hour.  It  is  true  that  he 
preferred  Bach  to  any  other,  and  that  he  inspired 
Goethe  with  the  same  devotion.  But  he  also  played 
Beethoven  frequently. 

There  was  another  intimate  friend  of  Goethe's,  who 
was  entirely  and  singly  devoted  to  Beethoven — the 
Secret  Councillor  of  State  (Geheimer  Regierungsrat) 
Friedrich  Schmidt.  This  amiable  and  worthy  man  was 
an  enthusiastic  apostle.  He  wrote  sonnets,  dedicated  to 
Beethoven's  works.  He  knew  his  sonatas  by  heart,  and 
played  Beethoven  almost  exclusively,  probably,  as 
Ferdinand  Hiller  tells  us  in  his  memoirs,  "with  more 
intelligence  than  technique."  "This  was  perhaps  not 
the  best  means  of  propaganda  for  the  master,"  he 
writes:  nevertheless,  it  is  worth  noticing  that  Goethe 
never  showed  any  objection  to  listen  to  him. 

In  1817  there  arrived  in  Weimar  a  musician  of  con- 
siderable reputation,  who  installed  himself  there  per- 
manently as  Kapellmeister,  Johann  Nepomuk  Hum- 

mel.  He  was  the  most  famous  piano  virtuoso  of  his  time. 
Hummel,  who  was  then  fotty  years  old,  had  had  the 
privilege  of  being  Mozart's  only  pupil,  and  he  was 
both  a  rival  and  friend  of  Beethoven's.  They  had  met 
when  very  young,  in  1787  as  a  matter  of  fact,  when 
Hummel  was  nine  years  old,  and  Beethoven  seven- 
teen. As  virtuosi  in  Vienna,  about  the  year  1802,  they 
often  joined  in  friendly  rivalry;  and  Karl  Czerny 
has  handed  down  to  us  an  account  of  these  contests 
which  divided  society  into  opposite  camps.  Both  were 
remarkable  in  improvisation,  but  their  manner  of  play- 
ing differed  greatly.  Hummel  was  a  master  of  good 
taste  and  elegance,  and  his  execution  was  clear  cut  and 
clean:  probably  no  one  ever  equalled  him  in  the  in- 
terpretation of  Mozart's  music.  Beethoven,  on  the  other 
hand,  excelled  in  the  play  of  his  imagination,  the  energy 
of  his  rhythm,  his  ardour,  and  his  control  of  the  mighty 
impulses  which  he  released.  It  is  to  the  credit  of  the 
two  virtuosi  that  their  rivalry  did  not  affect  their 
friendship.  It  is  true  that  occasionally  some  small  mis- 
understanding occurred,  when  Beethoven  would  send 
Hummel  one  of  those  terrible  letters  of  his,  in  which 
he  poured  a  stream  of  invective  on  the  head  of  his  as- 
tonished friend,  only  to  beg  him,  in  the  warmest  terms, 
on  the  same  evening  or  the  next  morning,  to  come  and 
be    friends   again.105    The   good-humoured    Hummel 

78  = 

never  allowed  these  incidents  to  interfere  with  their 
friendship.  From  1804  to  1811  he  deputized  for  and 
later  became  the  successor  of,  Haydn,  in  the  house- 
hold of  Prince  Esterhazy  at  Eisenstadt.  And  when  in 
1807  Beethoven  came  there  for  the  performance  of  his 
Mass  in  C,  and  the  prince  exclaimed,  "My  dear  Beetho- 
ven, what  on  earth  have  you  concocted  now?"  Hummel 
could  not  hide  a  smile,  thereby  drawing  upon  himself 
the  thunderbolts  of  wrath  which  Beethoven  could  not 
launch  against  the  princely  head.  Schindler,  a  very 
worthy  man,  but  possessing  no  sense  of  humour,  con- 
cluded, quite  mistakenly,  that  this  incident  led  to  a 
lasting  estrangement.  So  far  was  this  from  being  the 
case  that  in  1813-14  we  find  Hummel  gallantly  con- 
ducting the  drums  and  cannon  of  his  warlike  friend's 
army  in  the  Schlachtensymphonie  (the  Battle  of  Vit- 
torza),  while  Beethoven  wrote  him  facetious  Napo- 
leonic proclamations.  Hummel  continued  to  be  the 
faithful  friend,  who  immediately,  on  hearing  of  Bee- 
thoven's last  illness,  hurried  from  Weimar  to  Vienna, 
and  remained  at  the  bedside  of  the  dying  man.  We 
shall  find  him  there  presently.  .  .  .  We  see,  then,  that 
Beethoven  could  not  have  had  a  more  illustrious  advo- 
cate at  Weimar  than  Hummel.  We  are  told  that  the 
virtuosi  of  that  time  were  not  in  the  habit  of  playing 
any  other  compositions  than  their  own;  there  were, 

=  79 

however,  exceptions,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  Hum- 
mel proved,  for  society  in  Weimar,  a  veritable  mine  of 
Beethoven  lore.  It  is  therefore  difficult  to  believe  that 
he  never  spoke  of  Beethoven  to  Goethe,  who  met  him 
frequently  and  was  curiously  influenced  by  Hummel's 
powers  of  musical  fascination.106  Goethe,  in  his  wis- 
dom, always  attached  great  importance  to  the  judg- 
ment of  the  professional  musician,  and  was  thus  bound 
to  take  note  of  the  great  appreciation  which  Hummel 
professed  for  Beethoven,  even  if  he  himself  did  not 
share  it. 

Then  Zelter,  Goethe's  Achates,  went  to  Vienna  dur- 
ing the  summer  of  1819:  he  met  Beethoven  on  the  way. 
In  spite  of  his  rugged  exterior  he  was  a  kindly-hearted 
man,  and  Beethoven's  physical  sufferings  affected  him 
very  deeply;  the  old  friends  fell  into  each  other's  arms. 
"...  (Und  ich  habe  kaum  die  Tranen  verhalten  kon- 
nen — I  could  hardly  restrain  my  tears)."107 

From  this  moment  Zelter  always  showed  kindness  to 
the  unfortunate  man  of  genius,  who  displayed  the 
deepest  gratitude  to  him,  a  gratitude  which  was  per- 
haps out  of  proportion  to  the  actual  value  of  the 
services  rendered. 

Through  Goethe's  house  there  passed  a  continuous 
stream  of  distinguished  visitors — musicians,  men  of 
taste,  well-known  critics,  men  personally  acquainted 

80  ^= 

with  Beethoven — who  have  left  us  interesting  accounts 
of  their  conversation  with  him:  Wenzel  Tomaschek, 
who  had  set  some  of  Goethe's  poems  to  music;  Rellstab, 
later  the  sponsor  of  the  Moonlight  Sonata;  above  all, 
Johann  Friedrich  Rochlitz,  the  foremost  musical  his- 
torian of  the  time  and  for  thirty  years  Goethe's  friend 
and  correspondent,  who  has  spoken  so  nobly  of  Bee- 
thoven, and  to  whom  Beethoven  confided,  in  1822,  his 
unbounded  affection  for  Goethe.108 

But  there  is  more  to  tell,  and  I  must  resume  the  story 
of  the  year  1823,  that  year  of  tragedy,  when  Beethoven, 
harassed  by  ill-fortune,  knocked  vainly  at  Goethe's 
door;  I  have  already  quoted  his  humble  appeal,  which 
Goethe,  a  prey  to  both  the  desire  of  love  and  the  fear 
of  death,  seemed  to  disregard.  When  I  first  pictured 
this  scene,  I  did  not  sufficiently  emphasize  the  pathetic 
character  of  these  months  of  infinite  sadness  (Wehmut) 
when  "all  seemed  lost"  for  Goethe,  and  when  "he  him- 
self was  lost."109  Goethe's  heart  was  never  more  ac- 
cessible to  music  and  to  musical  emotion  than  in  this 
very  year  when  he  left  Beethoven  at  his  door;  it  was 
as  if  fate  had  ironically  determined  to  render  ridiculous 
the  misunderstanding  which  made  Goethe  turn  a  deaf 
ear  to  his  friend. 

His   senile   love    for   the   nineteen-year-old   little 
Ulrike  was  only  one  indication  of  the  restlessness 

=  81 
which  was  then  consuming  Goethe.  In  Marienbad  this 
restlessness  came  under  music's  influence.  At  no  other 
period  of  his  life  did  the  sound  of  music  overwhelm 
him  to  such  a  degree;  he  himself  was  at  a  loss  to  un- 
derstand it.  Two  great  women  artists  thrilled  the  old 
man's  heart  far  more  than  the  colourless  Ulrike.  They 
were  Anna  Milder-Hauptmann — Beethoven's  Leonora 
— whose  singing  of  the  simplest  song  moved  Goethe  to 
tears;110  and  even  more,  an  enchanting  Polish  pianist, 
Marie  Szymanowska,  then  thirty-three  years  of  age.  He 
dreamed  for  many  months  of  this  "ravishing,  all-pow- 
erful mistress  of  tone"  ("die  zierliche  Ton-All- 

But  it  needed  not  the  art  of  Muses  as  fair  as  these 
to  overcome  him.  Even  an  open-air  concert  given  by  the 
band  of  the  local  infantry  regiment  was  enough  to 
upset  him.111  This  worried  him,  and  he  tried  to  find  an 
explanation  of  his  emotion;  it  almost  seemed  as  if  he 
were  ashamed  and  afraid  of  it. 

His  letter  to  Zelter,  in  which  he  told  his  old  friend 
of  his  state  of  mind,  sounds  almost  apologetic.  .  .  .  He 
maintained  that  for  the  last  two  years  he  had  not  heard 
any  music — in  this  he  was  either  wrong  or  trying 
to  deceive  himself.  Suddenly  music  assailed  him  and 
released  the  winged  messengers  of  recollections  long 
forgotten.  It  was  too  much.  .  .  .  "I  am  convinced  that, 

82  = 

if  I  were  to  go  to  a  concert  by  your  Singakademie  I 
should  have  to  leave  the  hall  after  the  first  bar.  Ah, 
when  I  think,"  he  continued,  "of  the  happiness  which  I 
should  derive  from  hearing  every  week  an  opera  like 
Don  Juan!  I  know  now  what  sorrow  it  is  to  be  deprived 
of  a  delight  which  lifts  man  out  of  himself,  out  of  the 
world,  to  greater  heights.  How  I  need  it,  how  splendid 
it  would  be  if  I  were  with  you.  You  would  heal  my 
morbid  sensitiveness  (krankhaften  Reizbarkeit),  and 
little  by  little  enable  me  to  assimilate  once  more  God's 
greatest  revelation  (die  ganze  Fulle  der  schonsten 
Offenbarung  Gottes  in  mich  aujzunehmeri) .  Instead  of 
this,  I  shall  have  to  spend  a  winter  empty  of  music  and 
form  (klang  und  formlosen  Winter)  and  I  am  afraid 
of  it  (yor  dem  mir  doch  gewissermassen  grant).  .  .  ." 
This  great  man,  now  so  old  and  immured  in  the  cold 
walls  of  solitude,  who  can  fail  to  be  deeply  moved  at 
hearing  his  confession?  .  .  .  But  what  is  it  that  iso- 
lates him  ?  And  what  strange  fear  is  it  that  makes  him 
dread  the  thought  of  leaving  his  prison?  Germany  was 
full  of  friends  eager  to  see  him.  In  Berlin  his  faithful 
friend  Zelter  was  anxiously  awaiting  his  coming;  he 
had  been  waiting  for  twenty  years  past;  and  the  whole 
of  Berlin,  the  Court,  the  elite,  and  the  crowds  among 
whom  Zelter's  and  Reichardt's  Lieder  had  spread  his 
fame  and  given  rise  to  a  loving  veneration  of  his  name, 

—  fS 

=  83 

all  were  eagerly  expecting  him.  But  he  never  came;  he 
was  never  to  see  Vienna.  He  is  on  the  defensive  .  .  . 
but  against  what?  Is  it  happiness?  Is  it  glory?  Or  is  it 
the  gaping  crowd  which  he  shuns?  .  .  .  How  little 
self-assurance  he  has!  But  he  knows  what  manner  of 
man  he  is  and  we  know  what  a  masterpiece  he  carved 
out  of  his  very  being.  He  is  wise  and  recognizes  the 
abysses  which  he  must  avoid. 

So  he  returned  to  his  winter  quarters  in  Thuringia, 
frozen  to  the  very  heart.  He  complained  that  all  that 
was  left  for  him  was  to  bury  himself  in  his  retreat  and 
await  shivering  the  return  of  summer,  which  would 
allow  him  to  resume  in  Bohemia  the  only  life  worth 
living.  .  .  . 

And  just  then  suddenly  there  appeared  on  October 
24th  the  cjueen  of  the  snows,  the  enchantress  Szyma- 

There  followed  twelve  days  of  pure  delight,  twelve 
days  devoted  to  the  most  sacred  emotions  of  beauty,  of 
tenderness,  and  of  music.  The  accents  of  almost  re- 
ligious gratitude  in  which  Goethe  praised  her  to  the 
skies,  the  charming  words  with  which  he  bade  his  visi- 
tor farewell  on  the  eve  of  her  departure,  are  evidence 
of  the  profound  joy  which  her  presence  and  her  in- 
spired playing  had  given  him.  .  .  ,113 

It  has,  however,  not  been  sufficiently  recognized  that 


in  these  sacred  feasts  of  art  Beethoven  occupied  an 
important  place.  On  October  27th  a  Beethoven  trio  was 
played  at  Goethe's  house.  On  November  4th,  in  the 
great  concert  given  at  the  Stadthaus  in  honour  of 
Szymanowska,  Beethoven  figures  twice  on  the  program. 
The  concert  opened  with  the  Fourth  Symphony  in  B 
Flat,  and  after  the  interval  his  quintet,  op.  16  for  piano, 
oboe,  clarinet,  horn,  and  bassoon,  was  played.  Thus 
Beethoven  had  the  lion's  share,  and  without  mention- 
ing his  name,  Goethe  confessed  to  Knebel  that  he  was 
again  "completely  carried  away  by  the  whirlwind  of 
sounds  (da  bin  ich  nun  wieder  in  den  Strudel  der  Tone 
hineingerissen)."  Thus  there  had  been  opened  to  him 
a  new  world,  the  world  of  modern  music  which  he 
had  hitherto  refused  to  accept — "durch  Vermittelung 
eines  Wesens,  das  Geniisse,  die  man  immer  ahndet  und 
immer  entbehrt,  zu  verwirklichen  geschaffen  ist 
(through  the  medium  of  one  who  has  the  gift  of  en- 
dowing with  life  those  delights  which  we  resent  and 
of  which  we  deprive  ourselves)." 

The  following  incident  shows  how  deep  was  the 
emotion  in  the  old  man's  heart  at  this  time.  On  the 
evening  of  November  5th  Mme.  Szymanowska  came  to 
bid  him  good-bye.  Goethe  kissed  her  without  a  word; 
his  eyes  dwelt  upon  her  as  she  walked  away.  He  turned 
to  Councillor  van  Miiller  and  said:  "I  have  much  to 

=  85 
thank  her  for  .  .  .  she  has  given  me  back  to  myself 
(mich  zuerst  mir  selbst  wiedergegeberi)." 

He  went  to  bed  at  an  early  hour,  feeling  worn  out. 
The  next  morning  he  had  a  heart  attack.  He  had  vio- 
lent fits  of  coughing;  he  felt  as  if  he  were  going  to 
die.  When  Zelter  arrived  on  November  24th  it 
seemed  to  him  a  house  of  death  that  he  entered;  he 
was  paralyzed  with  fear.  For  twenty  days  he  remained 
closeted  with  his  old  friend  who  confided  all  his  trou- 
bles to  him.  They  spoke  also  of  music.  Zelter  mentioned 
that  Haydn  was  writing  some  "joyous"  masses,  and 
that  when  some  one  had  expressed  surprise  at  this  new 
style  of  sacred  music  he  had  replied:  "When  I  think 
of  God  I  always  feel  so  indescribably  happy.  ..." 
And  tears,  healing  tears,  again  flowed  over  Goethe's 

On  December  13th  Zelter  left,  and  again  Goethe 
took  up  his  life  and  its  tasks. 

Thus  we  see  how  filled  with  tenderness,  emotion, 
and  melancholy  was  the  Goethe  of  that  time,  how 
deeply  music  affected  him.  I  was  wrong,  therefore,  in 
saying,  as  I  did,  that  during  these  tempestuous  months 
the  thought  of  Beethoven  had  altogether  vanished.  No, 
the  spirit  of  Beethoven,  too,  had  been  heard  amid  the 
storm.  .  .  . 

86  ^^ 

All  the  more  extraordinary  is  it,  therefore,  that 
Goethe,  after  his  recovery,  never  spoke  of  him. 

Just  then  death  knocked  at  Beethoven's  door. 

At  the  first  news  of  the  danger,  Hummel,  the  Wei- 
mar Hoj kapellmeister  and  a  cherished  friend  of 
Goethe,  left  to  bid  a  last  farewell  to  his  great  fellow 
artist,  taking  with  him  his  wife  and  his  young  pupil, 
Ferdinand  Hilier,  for  whom  Goethe  showed  a  fatherly 
affection.  They  arrived  in  time  to  find  Beethoven  still 
fully  conscious  and  happy  to  see  the  old  couple  again. 
They  embraced  each  other  and  they  talked.  Hummel 
and  Hilier  paid  four  visits  (February  28,  March  13, 
March  20,  March  23,  1827 ).114  Each  time  they  found 
him  weaker.  The  sun  was  setting.  At  the  last  visit  the 
sufferer  could  no  longer  speak;  his  teeth  were  clenched 
in  the  supreme  struggle.  Frau  Hummel  bent  over  him 
and  wiped  the  sweat  from  the  dying  man's  brow. 
Beethoven's  expression  at  this  moment  had  a  striking 
effect  on  young  Hilier.  Forty  years  later  he  wrote:  "I 
shall  never  forget  the  look  of  gratitude  in  those  broken 
eyes  (sein  gebrochenes  Auge)  as  he  turned  them  on 

Three  days  later  Beethoven  died.  Hummel  was  pres- 
ent at  the  funeral.  On  April  9th  he  returned  to  Wei- 
mar,115 and  met  Goethe  again.  .  .  . 

f 1  \ Y  . 










^^k , 






v  ; 


=  87 

Nothing.  .  .  .  Goethe  asked  no  questions.  .  .  . 
Goethe  found  nothing  to  say.  .  .  ,116 

Nothing?  Yes,  he  did  say  something — a  year  later. 
And  it  was  all  he  ever  said  on  this  subject. 

In  1828,  in  his  report  on  the  Monatschrift  der  Gesell- 
schaft  des  vaterlandischen  Museums  in  Bohmen, 
Goethe  wrote,  in  stilted  fashion: 

"Mention  should  be  made  of  the  'Requiem'  by  To- 
maschek,  to  which  we  shall  refer  separately  in  greater 
detail,  because  it  is  one  of  the  most  recent  creations  of 
the  famous  composer;  we  should  also  make  honourable 
mention  of  the  religious  service  held  in  Prague  on  the 
occasion  of  Beethoven's  death"  (fr5o  wie  zugleich  der 
fur  Beethoven  veranstalteten  kirchlichen  Totenjeier 
ehrend  Erwahnung  zu  tun"). 

His  pen  had  compelled  him  to  write  the  name  "Bee- 
thoven" .  .  .  "ehrend  Erwahnung!  .  .    " 

And  this  is  the  single  reference  to  Beethoven  in  the 
whole  of  Goethe's  writings! 

""N/7  mirari." 

Whatever  we  may  feel,  let  us  do  as  Goethe  did — 
let  us  try  and  understand. 

In  all  that  we  have  noted  not  a  trace  of  personal 
hostility  is  to  be  found.  The  thought  of  Beethoven, 
whose  mind  and  person  had  for  a  moment  fascinated 
him,  no  doubt  distressed  and  troubled  him;  so  Goethe 

88  ^= 

put  it  from  his  mind.  It  would,  however,  be  utterly 
false  to  maintain  that  he  ever  showed  the  slightest 
dislike  for  him. 

There  are  other  great  musicians  whom  physically 
Goethe  could  not  tolerate.  Weber,  for  instance,  whose 
last  visit  (July,  1825),  just  before  his  death,  leaves  us 
a  terrible  impression.  Weber,  already  suffering  from 
his  last  illness,  was  announced.  He  was  kept  waiting 
in  the  antechamber.  Twice  afterwards  he  was  asked  for 
his  name,  a  name  famous  throughout  Germany  since 
the  triumph  of  his  opera  Vreischutz  in  Berlin  in  1821, 
and  even  in  Weimar  in  1822.  Goethe  had  heard  it 
in  1824,  as  well  as  Euryanthe.  When  at  last  he  was 
admitted  to  Goethe's  presence  he  found  "a  man  of 
stone,"  ice-cold  and  stern,  who  spoke  to  him  with  a 
frigid  politeness  on  matters  of  no  moment.  Not  a  word 
was  said  of  his  music.  Weber  left,  deeply  hurt,  went 
to  bed  shaking  with  fever,  remained  in  bed  at  his  hotel 
for  two  days  without  anyone  troubling  about  him,  and 
left  Weimar  forever. 

This  was  a  case  of  Goethe's  dislike  for  the  whole 
man  with  all  his  attributes.  He  disliked  Weber's  per- 
son, his  leanness,  his  sickliness,  his  grotesque  shape,  his 
perpetual  snuffling,  his  ugly  spectacles;  the  whole 
wretched  appearance  of  the  man  irritated  the  Olym- 
pian:  he  disliked  his  mind,  the  mind  of  the  self- 

=  89 

appointed  mouthpiece  of  the  national  and  military 
instincts  of  the  vulgar,  which  Goethe  despised.  He  dis- 
liked his  noisy,  rowdy  music — "A  lot  of  noise  for 
nothing,"  Goethe  grumbled  as  he  left  the  theatre  after 
the  second  act  of  Oberon.  Finally  he  disliked  the  man 
who  set  stupid  poems  to  music;  this  was  an  unforgiv- 
able offence  in  Goethe's  eyes,  and  we  may  add  that 
on  this  last  point  Beethoven  condemned  Weber  with 
equal  severity. 

There  is  nothing  of  this  kind  in  the  case  of  Bee- 
thoven. Let  us  remember  Goethe's  feeling  of  respect 
and  astonishment  when  he  first  met  Beethoven  (1812)  : 

"Zusammengefasster,  energischer,  inniger  habe  ich 
noch  keinen  Kiinstler  gesehen" 

Beethoven  made  a  great  impression  on  Goethe.  But 
the  latter  feared  him;  it  was  apprehension  of  a  claim 
to  equality,  a  claim  which  he  must  set  aside. 

Goethe  was  too  noble  to  refuse  to  admit  equality  in 
others.  For  him  it  should  have  been  rather  a  reason  for 
seeking  out  Beethoven. 

Was  it  his  music,  then,  that  he  disliked? 

In  all  our  researches  we  have  not  found  a  single  fact 
suggesting  that  Beethoven's  music  was  not  frequently 
performed  in  Weimar,  either  at  concerts  or  at  the 
theatre,  or,  for  that  matter,  even  at  Goethe's  own  house. 
Under  the  very  direction  of  Goethe  performances  of 

90  ^= 

Egmont  were  given  at  the  Weimar  Theatre,  with  Bee- 
thoven's incidental  music.117  And  in  1816  he  produced 
Fidelio.118  Whether  he  liked  this  music  or  not,  he  re- 
spected the  composer's  artistic  rights  and  independ- 
ence; he  would  never  have  hindered  his  triumphal 

Besides,  Beethoven's  greatness  was  already  estab- 
lished. After  1815  it  was  an  accomplished  fact.  The 
examples  which  I  quoted  in  my  first  essay  prove  that 
in  1820  and  1821  Goethe  himself  expressed  his  esteem. 
Beethoven,  as  represented  by  Egmont,  is  certainly  be- 
yond discussion. 

I  may  add  that  on  no  occasion  did  Goethe  ever  re- 
fuse, from  mere  prejudice,  to  listen  to  those  who 
desired  and  were  qualified  to  teach  him  something.  His 
highly  developed  scientific  mind  imposed  this  upon 
him.  He  was  not  one  of  those  poets  who  in  idle  pride 
despise  the  lessons  of  history.119  As  I  shall  show  later, 
no  other  writer  showed  a  greater  and  more  sustained 
interest  in  art  and  particularly  in  the  history  of  music. 
The  comprehension  of  a  work  of  art  seemed  to  him 
impossible  without  a  perception  of  its  proper  place  in 
the  chain  of  evolution  of  form  and  mind.120  And  in  that 
chain  of  evolution  Goethe's  personal  predilection  did 
not  react  against  this  or  that  particular  work.  His  in- 
telligence alone  was  concerned;  it  observed  the  facts, 

=  91 

deduced  with  lucidity  the  laws  governing  them,  and 
accepted  these  laws  with  serenity.  He  never  missed  an 
opportunity  of  organizing  in  Weimar  musical  per- 
formances in  historic  cycles  with  commentaries  and 
thus  presented  the  finest  examples  of  music  of  the 
different  epochs.  In  1818  Schutz,  of  Berka,  played  for 
him  during  three  consecutive  weeks,  for  three  or  four 
hours  every  day,  German  compositions  for  the  piano 
from  Handel  and  Bach  to  Beethoven.  In  1830 
Mendelssohn,  at  his  request,  played  for  him  for  a 
fortnight  all  the  classical  composers  from  the  begin- 
ning of  the  eighteenth  century  to  the  ri ' grossen  neuen 
Technikern"  ("the  great  modern  technicians")  of 
whom,  as  Goethe  wrote  to  Zelter,  he  gave  him  "a  suffi- 
cient idea"  ^htnr  etch  end  e  Begrifje").  And  there  is  no 
doubt  that  among  these  "great  modern  technicians" 
Beethoven  had  the  place  of  honour.121 

I  feel  convinced  that  Goethe  did  not  deny  him  this 
place.  I  have  said  elsewhere  that  in  all  technical  ques- 
tions concerning  an  art  other  than  his  own,  Goethe  was 
loyal  enough  to  accept  the  judgment  of  those  whom 
he  recognized  as  more  competent  than  himself.  Now, 
about  the  year  1825  I  fail  to  find  any  musician  of  im- 
portance in  Goethe's  circle — Rochlitz,  Schutz,  Mendel- 
ssohn, Lobe,  Tomaschek,  Rellstab,  even  Zelter — who 
did  not  recognize  Beethoven's  musical  genius,  what- 

92  = 

ever  may  have  been  the  criticisms  which  one  or  another 
expressed  of  his  work. 

What,  then,  is  the  conclusion? 

It  is  this,  that  Goethe  admitted,  recognized,  even 
admired  his  greatness,  but  did  not  like  it. 

That  is  the  whole  point.  Can  we  blame  him?  No 
man  can  love  to  order.  Goethe  in  his  affection  and  his 
art  was  always  sincere. 

His  predilection  in  music  we  shall  see  later.  It  is  a 
fine,  one  might  even  say  an  enormous,  field.  It  extends 
from  the  popular  Lied  to  the  choral  polyphony  of  the 
Italian  sixteenth  century,  from  Palestrina  to  Bach, 
from  Don  Juan  to  the  Barber;  the  heroic  oratorios  of 
Handel  were  enthroned  in  the  very  centre  of  his  af- 
fections side  by  side  with  the  "Well-tempered  Clav- 
ichord"; I  know  few  poets  of  whom  as  much  could 
be  said. 

But  there  were  two  things  which  he  did  not  like, 
two  types  of  music,  the  colossal  and  the  melancholy 
romantic.  To  be  crushed  or  to  be  depressed  was  to  him 
equally  unendurable. 

A  third  matter,  entirely  physiological,  influenced 
his  judgment;  his  ear  could  not  tolerate  "too  much 
noise."  This  was  one  of  the  reasons  why  he  did  not 
leave  home  during  his  last  years,  going  to  the  theatre 
only  on  very  rare  occasions.  The  new  music  induced  in 

=  93 

him  physical  suffering.  He  would  listen  to  orchestral 
music  only  if  it  was  arranged  for  the  piano. 

This  suggests  the  true  meaning  of  the  exclamation 
which  I  quoted  earlier  in  this  book,  after  Mendel- 
ssohn had  played  the  first  movement  of  the  C  Minor 

(fUnd  wenn  das  nun  alle  die  Menschen  zusammen 
spiel  en"  (Supposing  the  whole  of  mankind  played 
it  at  once). 

We  can  picture  him  making  off,  his  hands  clapped 
over  his  ears. 

Is  it  astonishing?  In  1830  Goethe  was  the  man  who 
long,  long  ago  as  a  boy,  had  heard  the  seven-year-old 
Mozart  play.  He  was  descended  from  the  far-off  golden 
age,  and  the  development  of  his  organic  sensibility 
could  not  keep  pace  with  the  growth  of  his  intelligence. 

Now  when  a  man's  senses  can  no  longer  appreciate 
works  of  art  without  pain  and  suffering,  his  intelli- 
gence inclines  him  to  the  belief  that  here  is  an  art 
which  must  inevitably  crush  and  depress  him.  Goethe 
therefore  put  it  from  him.  In  so  doing  he  put  Bee- 
thoven from  him. 

To  every  age  its  measure.  What  oppresses  one  will 
exalt  the  next.  Thus  it  shall  be  to  the  end  of  time.122 


■  JL.B.ilJfc-f-'T     1 



Goethe's  attitude  towards  music  has  not  hitherto  re- 
ceived the  attention  which  it  deserves,  especially  in 
France.  The  man  of  letters  who  is  also  a  musician  is 
a  rarity  in  Latin  countries.  When  men  of  this  type  are 
found,  their  taste  in  music  is  usually  so  amateurish  that 
it  has  been  supposed  that  Goethe  was  cut  to  the  same 
inadequate  measure.  Even  at  his  best,  Goethe  was  not 
considered  to  be  on  a  higher  level  than  that  of  a  gifted 
amateur.  He  was  known  to  be  distinguished,  refined, 
and  sensitive,  but  without  any  technical  knowledge,  a 
man  who  judged  musical  works  according  to  the  im- 
pressions which  they  made  upon  him;  these  impres- 
sions, at  times  vivid  and  penetrating,  were  largely  in- 
stinctive, and  were  often  affected  by  the  prevailing 
fashion  of  the  day.  His  failure  to  understand  Bee- 


98  ^^ 

thoven  was  thus  set  down  to  an  incompetence  in  an 
art  which  was  altogether  alien  to  him. 

But  when  we  take  the  trouble  to  follow  Goethe's 
artistic  life  from  beginning  to  end,  we  find  that  we 
must  abandon  this  view.  From  first  to  last  we  are  struck 
by  the  great  part  which  music  played  in  his  life.123 

We  know,  of  course,  that  he  was  above  all  a 

Zum  Sehen  geboren, 

Zum  Schauen  bestellt  .  .  . 

(Born  to  see,  destined  to  observe  .  .  .),  and  that  to 
him  the  finest  harmony  was  that  which  was  conveyed 
through  his  sight.  It  was  he  who  said  so  strikingly, 
"compared  with  the  eye,  the  ear  is  a  dumb  sense" 
("gegen  das  Auge  betrachtet,  ist  das  Ohr  ein  stummer 
Sinn").  Nevertheless,  there  was  no  dumb  sense  in 
Goethe;  every  pore,  as  it  were,  was  open  to  the  beauty 
of  the  world,  and  we  can  almost  say  that  in  his  case 
the  ear  was  a  second  eye. 

As  I  have  already  said,  his  ear  was  most  sensitive. 
He  could  not  tolerate  din;  street  noises  were  a  torture 
to  him,  he  had  an  aversion  to  the  barking  of  dogs;  he 
avoided  the  blare  of  the  romantic  orchestra,  and  at 
the  theatre  the  kettle-drum  beats  hurt  him;  he  would 
leave  his  box  in  the  middle  of  the  performance.  We 

=  99 

must  always  bear  in  mind  the  extreme  sensitiveness  of 
his  nerves,  the  delicate  organisms  which  dominated  his 
mind.  His  recognition  of  this  heel  of  Achilles  (for  he 
knew  all  his  weaknesses)  was  largely  responsible  for 
his  isolation  at  Weimar,  and  his  fear  of  large  cities. 

But  do  not  let  us  make  any  mistake.  It  was  noise 
which  he  hated;  the  fulness  of  rich,  pure  sound  de- 
lighted him.  He  had  a  fine  and  powerful  bass  voice, 
and  liked  to  hear  it.124  Even  at  the  age  of  seventy  he 
astounded  Mendelssohn  by  its  "tremendous  sonority" 
i^'ungeheurer  Klang").  That  voice,  had  he  wished, 
could  have  been  "heard  above  the  din  of  ten  thousand 
warriors,"  the  young  musician  wrote  to  his  sister  Fanny. 
And  indeed,  when  he  directed  rehearsals  at  the  Weimar 
Theatre,  his  commands,  thundering  forth  from  his  box, 
filled  the  whole  theatre.125  When  he  recited  he  knew 
how  to  use  all  the  registers  of  his  voice. 

He  had  developed  this  magnificent  organ,  not  only 
by  reading  aloud  and  reciting,  but  also  by  singing.  As 
a  little  child  he  learnt  by  heart  the  tunes  of  children's 
songs  even  before  he  could  understand  the  meaning  of 
the  words,  as  children  mostly  do.  In  Leipzig  he  sang 
sentimental  duets  with  the  Breitkopf  sisters.  Never, 
throughout  his  life,  did  he  write  a  Lied  without  hum- 
ming a  melody  to  it.120  "Never  read, always  sing"  ("Nur 
nicht  lesen,  hnmer  sin  gen!"  )  he  wrote  in  a  love  poem 

100  = 

to  Lina,  recommending  that,  in  order  to  read  his  poems, 
she  sit  at  the  piano  and  play.  Here  we  have  a  trait  which 
distinguished  him  essentially  from  all  our  songless 
poets.  Of  music  he  said  that  it  was  the  "true  element 
from  which  all  poetry  is  derived  and  into  which  all 
poetry  flows,"  like  a  river  into  the  sea  ("von  der 
Tonkunst  dem  wahren  Elemente,  woher  die  D'tcht- 
ungen  entspringen,  und  wohin  sie  zuruckkehren"). 

Besides  singing,  he  had  learned  in  Frankfurt  to  play 
the  piano,  and  in  Strasbourg  he  had  studied  the  'cello. 
We  read  that  in  1795,  at  the  age  of  forty-six,  "he 
played  the  piano  quite  well"  (rf£r  spielt  Klavier,  und 
gar  nicht  schlecht").127  There  is,  however,  reason  to 
believe  that  after  he  settled  in  Weimar  (towards  the 
end  of  1775)  he  neglected  the  piano,  except  on  rare 
occasions  when  he  used  Wieland's  instrument.  No 
doubt  he  did  not  consider  it  advisable  to  be  heard  at 
a  court  of  music-lovers  in  which  his  fair  friend, 
Frau  von  Stein,  played  both  the  piano  and  the  lute. 
His  privileged  position  enabled  him  also  to  hear  music 
whenever  he  wished,  without  having  to  play  himself; 
he  had  but  to  send  for  the  court  musicians,  who  were 
under  his  orders. 

It  is  well  to  remember,  however,  that  music  was  to 
him  not  simply  an  amusement.  It  was  either  an  intelli- 
gent interest  for  the  mind,  a  means  of  soothing,  calm- 

=  101 

ing,  and  restoring  the  spirit,  or  a  source  of  direct 
inspiration  to  creative  activity.128  Thus  in  1779  he  sent 
for  the  musicians  "to  soothe  his  soul  and  set  free  his 
spirit"  ({'die  Seele  zu  lindern  und  die  Geister  zu  ent- 
binden"),  while  he  was  writing  Iphigenie.  In  1815- 
16  he  had  recourse  to  music  as  a  help  to  inspira- 
tion while  he  was  writing  Epimenides.  In  1820  he 
wrote:  "I  can  always  work  better  after  I  have  been 
listening  to  music." 

There  is  no  doubt  that  he  composed,  and  that  he 
even  wrote  in  several  parts.  The  following  is  a  curious 

During  the  summer  of  1813 — the  year  after  he  met 
Beethoven — while  he  was  alone  in  Bohemia  and  in  a 
depressed  frame  of  mind,  he  meditated  deeply  on  the 
immortal  words  of  desperate  hope — In  te  Domine 
speravi  et  non  conjundar  in  aeternum.  He  set  them  to 
music  for  voices  in  four  parts.  The  following  winter, 
reading  his  composition  again,  he  asked  Zelter  to  set 
the  same  words  to  music  also  in  four  parts.  His  oblig- 
ing friend  obeyed.  And  Goethe,  after  comparing  the 
two  versions,  wrote  to  Zelter  (February  23,  1814)  that 
the  comparison  had  thrown  a  light  on  his  own  musical 
personality;  his  composition  reminded  him  of  Jom- 
melli's  style  (that  wasn't  half  bad!).  He  added:  "How 
astonished  and  pleased  we  are  when  we  find  ourselves 

102  ^^ 

unexpectedly  on  such  paths.  We  become  suddenly 
aware  of  our  own  subconscious  life"  ("Nachtwandeln" 
— literally,  "sleepwalking"  ) . 

But  his  conception  of  art  was  too  high  to  permit  the 
existence  of  schoolboy  compositions;  they  were  written 
in  a  language  which  remained  foreign  to  him,  no  mat- 
ter how  skilfully  he  spoke  it. 

What  had  been  his  musical  development? 

As  a  child,  in  Frankfurt,  the  Italian  arias  and  the 
French  light  operas  (Sedaine  and  Favart,  Monsigny 

In  Leipzig,  the  German  Sings  pi  el  e  (ballad  operas) 
in  which  Johann  Adam  Hiller  excelled.  But  the  worthy 
Hiller,  whom  Goethe  knew  personally,  was  much  more 
than  an  amiable  musician;  he  was  one  of  the  greatest 
musical  instructors  in  Germany.  He  had  founded  a 
weekly  musical  journal  and  had  organized  excellent 
symphony  and  choral  concerts  (he  called  them  "musi- 
cal evenings")  which  later  on  became  the  famous 
Gewandhaus  concerts.  At  these  performances  Hasse's 
oratorios  were  given  with  excellent  singers,  who  roused 
the  enthusiasm  of  the  youthful  audiences.  Sixty-three 
years  later  these  memories  were  still  fresh  in  the  mind 
of  the  aging  Goethe,  and  he  referred  to  them  in  two 

=  103 

touching  poems,  written  in  1831  on  the  occasion  of 
the  eighty-second  birthday  of  Gertrud  Schmehling, 
who  sang  under  the  name  of  la  Mara,  the  most  famous 
of  the  soloists  who  appeared  at  these  Leipzig  concerts. 
Another  of  the  singers,  Korona  Schroter,  was  engaged 
by  Goethe,  eight  years  later,  to  appear  in  Weimar;  they 
were  close  friends  and  seem  to  have  played  with  fire; 
it  is  said  that  Goethe  burnt  himself.  .  .  . 

During  this  first  period,  before  Goethe  was  twenty, 
the  sceptre  of  music  was  wielded  by  Hasse,  the  great 
master  of  pure  melody  whom  even  Mozart  hardly  sur- 
passed. But  the  influence  of  Gluck  was  already  becom- 
ing apparent.  ...  It  goes  almost  without  saying  that 
Gluck  represented  for  Goethe  one  of  the  loftiest  peaks 
in  the  art  of  music,130  and  it  was  not  altogether  his  fault 
if  the  two  did  not  work  together.  In  1774,  when 
Goethe's  period  of  Lieder  was  in  full  blossom,  after 
the  delightful  spring  of  Strasbourg,  he  was  trying  to 
find  a  composer  who  could  work  hand  in  hand  with 
him.  He  asked  one  of  his  friends  to  mention  him  to 
Gluck,  and  she  sent  some  of  young  Goethe's  poems  to 
the  old  composer.  Gluck,  unfortunately,  was  in  one 
of  his  bad  tempers.  He  refused  even  to  read  the  poems. 
He  said  very  angrily  that  he  was  very  busy  and  had 
all  the  poets  he  wanted — Marmontel,  Sedaine.  .  .  . 

104  ^^ 

Two  years  later,  in  1776,  the  roles  were  changed;  it 
was  Gluck  who  approached  Goethe.  They  were  sad 
days  for  Gluck.  In  April  he  had  lost  his  adored  niece, 
Nanette  Marianna,  "the  little  Chinese  girl,"  the  night- 
ingale whose  voice  was  so  frail  and  pathetic.  She  died 
at  the  age  of  seventeen.  Gluck  received  the  terrible 
news  in  Paris,  on  the  morning  after  the  first  perform- 
ance of  Alcestis,  which  had  been  a  complete  failure. 
He  was  grief -stricken;  nothing  mattered  any  longer; 
music  meant  nothing  to  him;  he  would  not  compose 
again.  .  .  .  Yes,  he  would  write  one  more  song  in 
which  all  his  love,  all  his  despair,  should  cry  aloud  to 
the  world.  He  wrote  to  Klopstock,  he  wrote  to  Wie- 
land.  Both  referred  him  to  Goethe,  and  it  was  Wieland 
who  put  Gluck's  request  before  his  young  fellow  poet. 
Goethe  was  greatly  moved;  he  began  to  give  the  mat- 
ter some  thought.  But  those  were  days  of  feverish  and 
troubled  anxiety  to  him.  He  had  just  arrived  in  Wei- 
mar, where  he  was  beset  by  the  demands  of  pride 
and  love.  These  were  the  early  days  of  that  passion- 
ate friendship  which  was  to  bring  him  so  many 
joys,  such  creative  dreams,  and  such  torments.  He  was 
the  slave  of  Charlotte  von  Stein.131  His  thoughts,  filled 
for  a  while  with  the  grief  of  the  old  singer  of  Orpheus, 
strayed  elsewhere;  he  cast  aside  the  work  which  he  had 
begun.132  In  vain  did  Gluck  plead.  .  .  . 

=  105 
"My  heart  is  filled  with  sadness,"  he  wrote  to  Frau 
von  Stein;  "I  am  writing  a  poem  for  Gluck  on  the 
death  of  his  niece"  ^Ich  wohne  in  tiefer  Trauer  iiber 
einem  Gedicht  dass  ich  fur  Gluck  auf  den  Tod  seiner 
Nichte  machen  will")  ,133 

It  seems,  however,  that  the  plan  which  he  had  con- 
ceived for  this  was  too  vast.134  He  did  not  find  the 
quiet  frame  of  mind  required  for  such  a  work,  and  so 
he  gave  it  up.135 

This  was  not,  however,  the  last  time  that  Goethe  and 
Gluck  were  in  contact.  During  the  years  which  fol- 
lowed, Gluck  was  greatly  appreciated  in  Weimar,136 
and  Goethe  sought  from  him  not  only  the  creative  stim- 
ulant which  he  often  looked  for  in  the  works  of 
musicians,  but  lessons  in  dramatic  style  and  declama- 
tion.137 His  lovely  friend,  Korona  Schroter,  had 
often  sung  Gluck  to  him,  and  sung  it  well.  Goethe  at 
the  time  desired  to  train  for  his  own  personal  use  a 
composer  who  should,  as  it  were,  complement  him. 
Music,  indeed,  was  to  him  an  integral  and  necessary 
part  of  the  lyric  and  theatrical  art  with  which  he  was 
then  preoccupied.  So  he  proposed  to  send  Christoph 
Kayser,  whom  he  had  chosen  for  the  purpose,  to  Gluck. 
He  wrote  to  Gluck,  who  at  that  time  was  very  ill, 
indeed  at  death's  door,  and  the  latter  at  once  replied, 

106  ^= 

asking  to  be  excused  on  account  of  his  paralyzed  hand 

At  this  time  (1781)  Goethe  was  much  interested  in 
Jean-Jacques  Rousseau's  musical  ideas.  Goethe's 
"monodrama"  Proserpina  belongs  to  a  class  of  play  in- 
augurated by  Rousseau's  Pygmalion. 

But  there  was  yet  another  and  more  powerful  star 
rising  in  Goethe's  heaven,  Handel.  Weimar  was  just 
then  in  theatrical  matters  well  ahead  of  the  rest  of 
Germany,  and  about  January-March  1781,  the  town 
saw  the  first  performance  in  Germany  of  Alexander's 
Feast  and  of  the  Messiah.  This  was  a  great  event  for 
Goethe.  He  followed  the  rehearsals  very  closely  and, 
according  to  his  own  confession,138  he  acquired  "many 
new  ideas  on  declamation"  ("neue  Ideen  von  Dekla- 
mation").  To  Goethe  Handel  remained  one  of  the 
gods  of  Olympus,  although  he  had  hardly  any  further 
opportunities  of  hearing  his  music  in  the  little  town.139 
This  was  probably  one  of  the  grounds  on  which  his 
friendship  with  Zelter  was  based.140  It  was  a  perform- 
ance of  the  Messiah  which  had  decided  the  musical 
career  of  the  young  master-mason;  it  had  moved  him 
so  deeply  that  he  sobbed  bitterly  as  he  walked  on  foot 
from  Potsdam  to  Berlin,  after  the  performance  (1783). 
The  two  friends  were  haunted  by  this  great  work,  to 
such  a  point  that  later111  they  decided  to  write  together 

=  107 

an  immense  oratorio  which  would  stand  worthily  be- 
side the  Messiah.  In  letters  dating  from  1816,  Goethe 
sketched  out  the  basic  ideas  of  the  plan: 

"The  two  ideas:  Necessity  and  Liberty.  ...  In  this 
circle  everything  is  to  be  found  in  which  man  is  inter- 
ested. ..." 

The  work  was  to  begin  with  the  thunder  on  Mount 
Sinai,  the  "Thou  shalt"  (rrD#  sollst"),  and  end  with 
Christ's  resurrection,  and  the  "Thou  shalt  be"  (JrDu 

It  has  been  justly  pointed  out  that  although  this 
plan  so  enthusiastically  conceived  did  not  mature,  the 
second  Faust  profited  by  several  of  its  inspirations;  the 
Epilogue  in  Heaven  is  its  direct  result.  Who  would 
ever  have  thought  that  Faust,  in  this  magnificent  per- 
oration, is  the  indirect  heir  of  Handel? 

We  shall  see  later  how  the  exultant  and  illuminat- 
ing art  of  Handel  affected  Goethe's  imperious  tastes 
in  religious  music.  There  was,  in  fact,  a  preestablished 
harmony  between  him  and  this  form  of  art. 

As  he  grew  old,  he  felt  an  irresistible  desire  to  re- 
juvenate his  aging  mind  in  this  fountain  of  energy. 
In  the  spring  of  1824  an  essay  by  Rochlitz  on  the  Mes- 
siah rekindled  the  fire  of  his  imagination.  He  wrote  to 
Zelter  he  imbibed  with  delight  Handel's  Geistesge- 
walt  ("Gigantic  Spiritual  Power").  If  anything  could 

108  = 

have  persuaded  him  to  emerge  from  his  retreat  in 
Weimar  and  go  to  Berlin,  it  was  Zelter's  great  orches- 
tral and  choral  performances,  which  reawakened  in 
Germany  the  all-embracing  spirit  of  Handel  and 
Bach.  Goethe  eagerly  read  Zelter's  letters  on  this 
subject;  by  means  of  them  he  heard  the  performances 
almost  as  perfectly  as  we  would  hear  them  by  wireless. 

"It  is,"  he  once  said,  "as  if  I  heard  at  a  distance  the 
sound  of  the  sea"  (rfEs  ist  mir  als  wenn  ich  von  feme 
das  Meer  brausen  horte") . 

There  is  a  close  analogy  between  these  words  and 
Beethoven's  remark  on  hearing  Bach's  music:  "His 
name  should  not  be  brook  (Bach),  but  sea  .  .  ." 
("Nicht  Bach  sondern  Meer  sollte  er  heissen  we  gen 
seines  unendlichen,  unausschopfbaren  Keichtums  von 
7 ' onkombinationen  und  Harmonien").142 

Goethe  was  not  only  overwhelmed  by  these  musical 
immensities;  he  also  admired  the  architectural  beauty 
of  the  oratorios.  During  the  last  three  years  of  his  life 
he  never  tired  of  studying  the  construction  of  the 
Messiah,  Samson,  and  Judas  Maccabaeus  (1829-32). 

Towards  the  close  of  the  year  1785  another  star 
began  to  shine  in  his  firmament — Mozart.  Goethe  then 
heard,  for  the  first  time,  the  opera  //  Seraglio,  in 
Weimar.  He  was  delighted  with  it.  But  this  opera  was 
a  serious  blow  to  him,  for  just  then  he  and  Kayser  were 

=  109 

making  great  efforts  to  evolve  a  form  of  comedy  with 
music.  Suddenly,  at  a  single  stroke,  Mozart  wiped  out 
all  they  had  done,  realized  all  they  had  hoped  to 
achieve,  and  surpassed  their  utmost  ambitions.  Goethe, 
however,  was  not  so  narrow-minded  as  to  bear  him  any 
ill-will.143  From  the  day  on  which  Goethe  became  the 
director  of  the  Weimar  theatre,  Mozart  reigned  su- 
preme, and  his  reign  endured. 

We  must  not  forget  that,  for  rwenty-six  years,  from 
May,  1791,  to  April,  1817,  the  climax  of  his  life, 
Goethe  undertook  a  task  which  to  us  seems  ungrateful 
and  out  of  all  proportion  to  his  genius,  namely,  the 
direction  of  a  provincial  theatre  where  not  only  plays, 
but  operas  also,  were  given.144  He  took  this  work 
very  seriously,  especially  until  1808,  when  the  per- 
petual quarrels  incited  by  the  prima-donna  Karolina 
Jagemann,  who  was  the  recognized  mistress  of  the 
duke,  and  who  used  her  position  to  impose  her  will  on 
the  management  of  the  theatre,  caused  him  the  utmost 
disgust.  But  during  the  long  period  of  his  direction, 
600  pieces  were  performed,  of  which  104  were  operas, 
and  31  Sings  pi  el  e  (ballad  operas).  Mozart's  works 
easily  held  the  first  place.  When,  in  1795,  Goethe 
summed  up  the  work  of  the  theatre  during  its  first 
ten  years,  he  found  that  not  one  work  had  been  given 
more  than  twelve  performances,  except  The  Magic 

110  = 

Flute  with  twenty-two,  and  //  Seraglio  with  twenty- 
five  performances.  Twenty  years  later,  the  total  num- 
ber of  performances  of  Mozart's  operas  under  Goethe's 
direction  were:  82  of  The  Magic  Flute™*  68  of  Don 
Juan,  49  of  11  Seraglio,  33  of  Cost  fan  Tutte,  28  of 
Titus,  and  19  of  The  Marriage  of  Figaro,  which, 
strangely  enough,  was  in  Weimar  always  the  least  suc- 
cessful of  Mozart's  works.  Until  the  advent  of  Schil- 
ler's dramas,  Mozart  remained  the  first  favourite;  after 
Schiller's  death,  opera  again  outweighed  drama. 
Goethe's  best  pieces,  Faust,  Tasso,  lphigenie,  Gotz  von 
Berlichingen,  were  played  only  long  after  they  were 
written  and  on  rare  occasions.  More  frequently  we  find 
his  lighter  works,  his  Singspiele,  of  which  even  the 
most  popular,  Jery  und  Bately,  was  given  24  times 
only.  Mozart's  supremacy  in  this  theatre  is  therefore 

That  Goethe  agreed  with  the  public  verdict  is  proved 
by  a  famous  letter  to  Schiller.  The  latter  had  expressed 
to  his  friend  the  great  hopes  which  he  had  founded  on 
opera;  he  was  even  of  the  opinion  that  "just  as  once 
upon  a  time  tragedy  was  evolved  from  the  choruses  of 
the  ancient  feasts  of  Bacchus,  it  would  again  emerge 
from  opera,  but  in  a  nobler  form,"  because  opera  was 
free  from  the  slavish  imitation  of  nature,  and  in  it  art 
had  "free  play."  Goethe  replied:   "You  could  have 

=  111 

seen  your  expectation  of  the  future  of  opera  realized 
to  a  high  degree  in  Don  Juan.  But  this  work  remains 
unique,  and  with  Mozart's  death  all  hope  of  hearing 
anything  like  it  is  lost." 

He  expressed  the  same  regret  towards  the  end  of  his 
life,146  when  he  deplored  with  Eckermann,  in  1829, 
that  he  could  find  no  suitable  music  for  Faust.  "It  is 
quite  impossible,"  said  Goethe.  "The  music  would 
have  to  be  in  the  character  of  Don  Juan.  Mozart  should 
have  composed  it."147 

It  is  said  that  the  last  songs  which  Goethe  heard 
were  melodies  from  Don  Juan,  which  his  grandson 
Walther  sang  him  on  the  evening  of  March  10th.148 

Among  the  other  masters  of  the  lyric  theatre  whose 
works  were  most  frequently  performed  in  Weimar 
under  Goethe's  direction  we  find,  during  the  early 
days,  Dittersdorf,  Benda,  Paesiello,  Cimarosa,  Mon- 
signy,  Dalayrac,  Gretry,  Salieri,  and  Sarti.149  After 
1800,  Cherubini,  Mehul,  Boieldieu.  After  1810, 
Paer,  Simon  Mayr,  and  Spontini.  Weber  made  his 
appearance  in  1814  with  Silvana,  Beethoven's  Egmont 
was  given  in  1812-14,  and  his  Fidelio  in  1816. 
Then  came  Rossini's  period  of  triumphs:  Semiramis, 
La  Gazza  Ladra,  The  Siege  of  Corinth,  later  William 

112  ^^ 

Tell  and  Moses.  The  only  works  which  rivalled  his 
were  those  of  Spontini,  for  whom  Goethe  showed 
much  consideration,  and  whom  he  treated  as  Rossini's 
equal,  and  Weber's  Freischiitz.  Finally  there  was 
Auber.  Goethe,  who  at  that  time  did  not  visit  the  the- 
atre frequently,  heard,  in  IS 24,  Euryanthe  and  Frei- 
sch.\:z.  Fernando  Cortez,  Tancredi,  The  Marriage  of 
Figaro;  in  1S26  die  Berber  of  Seville;  in  1827  La  Gazza 
LaJra;  in  1S2S  L;  Dame  Blanche  and  The  Mason;  in 
1S29  Oberon,  which  aggravated  him.  This  was  the  last. 

Dramatic  music  was  not  sufficient  for  Goethe.  He  also 
liked  sacred  music  on  a  large  scale,  and  chamber  music. 

As  far  as  the  first  was  concerned,  the  resources  avail- 
able in  Weimar  were  very  meagre.  During  the  finest 
epoch,  that  of  Schiller  and  Herder,  all  that  was  given 
in  the  course  of  ten  years  were  three  or  four  oratorios 
by  Haydn  and  Graun.  The  difficult}'  was  that  Herder, 
the  general  superintendent  of  schools  and  churches, 
and  Goethe,  the  director  of  the  theatre,  were  compelled 
bv  lack  of  resources  to  compete  for  the  sen-ices  of 
choristers.  Herder  complained,  not  without  reason,  that 
Goethe  deprived  him  of  the  seminarist  choir;  but 
Goethe  was  forced  to  take  this  step  in  order  to  earn- 
on  his  opera  house. 

=  113 
The  chamber  music  consisted  principally  of  con- 
certs by  virtuosi.  Goethe,  however,  was  not  satisfied 
His  lifelong  wish,  as  he  expressed  it  in  Wilhelm 
Aleister,  was  that  music  should  form  part  of  our  daily 
life.  His  dream  was  a  private  choir,  and  in  September, 
1807,  he  carried  his  plan  into  effect.  The  times  were 
ripe  for  meditation  and  the  culture  of  the  arts.  Ger- 
many's defeat,  after  the  battle  of  Jena,  forced  the  coun- 
try to  turn  to  its  own  spiritual  resources.  Bode  has 
pointed  out  how  the  different  classes  of  society  and 
the  different  provinces  of  the  Vaterland  were  brought 
closer  together.  Even-body  felt,  as  never  before  and 
never  afterwards,  the  need  of  spiritual  communion  in 
their  most  sacred  emotions,  in  art  and  in  thought. 

Goethe's  prestige  was  growing  rapidly  during  those 
years;  he  was  well  aware  that  "noblesse  oblige"  would 
prevent  him  from  accepting  any  benefit  which  would 
not,  at  the  same  time,  prove  of  service  to  those  who 
surrounded  him,  and  through  them,  \"Teimar  setting 
the  example,  to  the  whole  of  Germany.  Two  months 
after  the  foundation  of  his  private  choir  he  presented 
it  to  a  circle  of  chosen  friends,  and  a  month  later  to 
the  court;  still  later  (February  22,  1810)  to  the  whole 

This  choir,  which  had  very  modest  beginnings,  was 
really   a   choral   society    (a   four-part   chorus).    The 

114  ^= 

young  violinist  and  composer,  Karl  Eberwein,  soon 
became  the  conductor.  The  repertoire,  which  increased 
rapidly,  consisted  mainly  of  the  great  Italian  and  Ger- 
man sacred  music:  Jommelli,  Joseph  Haydn,  Mozart, 
Fasch,  Salieri,  Ferrari  (offertories,  motets,  canons, 
hymns),  as  well  as  Lieder  by  Zelter,  Reichardt,  and 
Eberwein.  Even  masses  and  fragments  of  oratorios 
were  introduced.  Of  course  Goethe's  personal  influence 
was  felt  much  more  in  the  rendering  of  the  Lieder  and 
the  humorous  compositions,  because  there  the  poet  and 
theatrical  producer  insisted  on  his  rights;  it  was  he 
who  decided  on  the  tempi  and  the  expression. 

But  in  the  execution  of  both  kinds  of  music,  sacred 
or  secular,  there  was  one  inexorable  law  which  Goethe 
imposed  on  his  musicians  and  which  governed  the 
choice  of  his  programs;  he  would  have  none  of  the 
tendency,  then  so  common  in  Germany,  to  whining,  to 
religious  lamentations  and  love  laments,  to  what  he 
called  "graveyard  music."  Though  the  particular  cir- 
cumstances of  that  period  would  have  admitted,  or 
even  prompted,  melancholy,  this  energetic  man  forbade 
its  expression.  He  cursed  the  weeping-willow  poets 
who  had  opened  the  flood-gates  of  this  mournful 
inundation,  among  them  Matthisson  and  Tiedge,  both 
friends  of  Beethoven.  I  am  not  sure  that  the  mere 
mention  of  the  subject  did  not  set  him  against  the 

=  115 

immortal  song-cycle,  "An  die  feme  Geliebte"  ("To 
the  distant  beloved"),  which  his  Zuleika,  Marianna 
von  Willemer,  recommended  so  strongly  to  him.  In 
the  course  of  a  journey  in  1817  he  heard  a  melancholy 
love  song,  "I  have  loved  and  love  no  more;  I  have 
laughed  and  laugh  no  more  .  .  .";  he  was  furious  and 
wrote  at  his  hotel  table: 

"I  have  loved,  and  now  I  begin  to  love  more  than 
ever.  .  .  .  Today  as  yesterday,  the  stars  are  shining. 
Avoid  as  you  would  the  plague  those  whose  heads  are 
bowed  in  woe.  Live  always  as  if  life  were  just  begin- 
ning!" (rrund  lebe  dir  immer  von  vorne")  ! 

This,  then,  was  another  trait,  one  of  the  best,  which 
he  shared  with  Zelter,  who  bore  so  many  troubles  on 
his  shoulders  and  shook  them  off  so  cheerily. 

What  Goethe  demanded  both  of  sacred  and  of  sec- 
ular music  was  that  it  should  set  free  the  joy  of  living, 
moral  confidence,  whole-hearted  energy,  and  above  all, 
the  impulse  of  reason;  it  should  encourage  the  spirit 
of  clearness  of  thought,  the  sense  of  the  eternal,  con- 
tempt for  pettiness  and  nothingness.  In  that  he  is  blood 
brother  to  Handel.  What  would  not  these  two  together 
have  done,  the  Apollo  of  Weimar  and  the  English 
Hercules?  This  preference  was  undoubtedly  detri- 
mental to  Beethoven,  yet  he  would  have  been  the  first 
to  approve  of  it.  It  was  not  Beethoven's  fault  if  he  did 

116  ^ 

not  follow  the  same  road  as  Handel.  It  was  an  ideal 
which  greatly  attracted  him,  but  which  the  tormented 
soul  of  the  man  prevented  his  attaining.  Besides,  let 
us  make  no  mistake;  for  Goethe,  too,  Handel  repre- 
sented an  ideal,  whose  faculty  for  abundant  joyousness 
in  music  and  whose  serene  mind  attracted  him  all  the 
more  because  he  himself  did  not  possess  them,  as  he 
told  his  friend  Councillor  von  Muller.  He  compared 
himself  to  Napoleon  and  contrasted  himself  with  him: 
Napoleon  loved  only  tender  and  melancholy  music 
because  these  qualities  were  opposed  and  complemen- 
tary to  his  own  character.  Goethe  said  that  soft  and 
sentimental  melodies  depressed  him:  "I  need  lively 
(Jrische)  and  energetic  music  to  grip  and  uplift  me. 
Napoleon,  who  was  a  tyrant,  needed  softness  in  music. 
I,  for  the  very  reason  that  I  am  not  a  tyrant,  love  lively, 
gay,  merry  (rauschende,  lebhajte,  heitere)  music. 
Man  aspires  always  to  be  what  he  is  not."150  Should  we 
therefore  be  justified  in  saying  that  in  Beethoven  he 
avoided  what  he  himself  was  .  .  .  what  he  himself 
did  not  desire  to  be?  .  .  . 

In  his  choir,  in  his  home,  he  cultivated  gay  secular 
music,  folksong  especially,  and  virile  sacred  music. 
He  was  also  very  fond  of  string  quartets;  it  was,  indeed, 
the  form  of  instrumental  music  he  liked  best.  Here 
again  he  agreed  with  Beethoven  whose  real  and  csscn- 

=  117 

tial  nature  found  expression  from  beginning  to  end  in 
the  string  quartet  .  .  .  The  quadriga  suited  Apollo  .  .  . 
What  Goethe  derived  above  all  from  this  form  of 
music  was  a  pleasure  founded  on  reason: 

"I  hear,"  he  wrote  to  Zelter,  "four  people  of  good 
sense  discoursing  together;  I  have  the  feeling  that  I 
learn  something  from  what  they  are  saying,  and  I  be- 
come acquainted  with  the  individuality  of  each  of 

He  disliked,  however,  the  violent  shocks  which  the 
new  instrumental  music  afforded.  He  must  have  con- 
ceived it  as  an  attack  upon  the  liberty  of  the  mind, 
which  is  thus  surprised  and  brutally  violated.  All  that 
the  mind  could  not  grasp  thoroughly,  all  that  he 
summed  up  in  the  word  ?neteorisches  (of  meteoric 
quality),  was  suspect,  even  antagonistic  to  him.  Very 
probably,  under  this  term  he  condemned,  or  at  least 
segregated,  Weber's  operas  and  some  of  Beethoven's 
symphonies,  the  feasts  of  Dionysus,  the  orgies,  the  hur- 
ricanes, as  he  called  them. 

His  private  choir  lasted  about  seven  or  eight  years 
only.  As  in  the  theatre,  he  succumbed  to  the  poison 
of  intrigue,  to  the  petty  quarrels  of  a  vain  and  bicker- 
ing horde  whose  habits  Goethe  so  well  knew  (he  de- 
scribes them  in  masterly  fashion  in  Wilhelm  Meis- 
ter),  but  who  attracted  him,  nevertheless.  After  1814 

118  = 

he  kept  only  two  or  three  of  his  singers,  who  had 
become  his  personal  friends. 

At  this  moment,  just  as  the  springs  of  his  musical 
knowledge  seemed  to  fail,  his  horizon  was  suddenly 
widened  enormously  by  his  intercourse  with  Bach. 

The  Bachs  were  well  known  in  Weimar  where  they 
had  neighbours  and  relatives.  John  Sebastian  came  to 
Weimar  on  two  occasions,  once  in  1703  for  a  few 
months  and  then  in  1708  for  nine  months,  as  organist 
and  Kapellmeister.  His  Weimar  pupils  maintained  his 
traditions  in  that  town  for  half  a  century.152  More- 
over, the  dowager  duchess,  who  came  from  Bruns- 
wick and  was  a  good  musician,  had  studied  under 
John  Ernest  Bach,  of  Eisenach,  who  had  followed  her 
to  Weimar.  It  is  very  probable  that  she  often  played 
John  Sebastian's  works  to  Goethe. 

Goethe  must  also  have  met  many  other  admirers  of 
John  Sebastian,  for  there  were  many  of  them  in  those 
days:  there  was,  for  instance,  young  Count  Wolf  Bau- 
dissin  who  used  to  say  that  he  was  ready  to  die  for 
Bach,  much  to  Goethe's  disgust.153  Goethe's  friend 
Rochlitz,  the  historian  of  music,  had  in  1800  re- 
minded the  all-too-forgetful  German  people  that  the 
last  surviving  daughter  of  Bach  was  living  in  utter 

=  119 

poverty,  and  had  asked  the  public  to  send  donations 
for  her:  Beethoven  was  a  warm  supporter  of  this  char- 
itable appeal.  Lastly  Zelter  had  in  1810  given  short 
lectures  to  Goethe  on  John  Sebastian  and  his  great 
rivals  or  forerunners.  Goethe,  therefore,  was  well  in- 
formed of  Bach's  importance,  and  of  his  place  in  the 
evolution  of  music. 

But  the  direct  experience  of  Bach's  music  and  the 
definite  impression  it  left  on  him  he  owed  to  his  friend 
the  inspector  of  Berka  Spa  near  Weimar,  Johann  Hein- 
rich  Friedrich  Schiitz.  This  merry  little  fat  man  with 
his  rubicund  face,  and  his  top-hat  set  askew  on  his 
head,  was  a  passionate  admirer  of  Bach.  He  had  bought 
bundles  of  manuscript  music  from  John  Sebastian's 
last  pupil,  Kittell  of  Erfurt.  This  music  he  played  to 
Goethe,  who  was  at  once  greatly  impressed  and  re- 
mained so  to  the  end  of  his  days,  which  shows  that 
his  musical  disposition  was  essentially  serious.  He  was 
never  tired  of  hearing  the  "Well-tempered  Clavi- 
chord" and  was  always  asking  Schiitz  to  play  him  the 
preludes  and  fugues.  He  likened  them  to  "brilliant 
mathematical  works,  the  themes  of  which  are  so  simple 
and  the  poetical  results  are  so  magnificent."154  From 
that  time  Schiitz  and  Goethe  met  frequently.  Either 
one  or  the  other  would  pay  a  visit  to  his  friend  in  the 
neighbouring  town.   The  piano   would   at  once  be 

120  = 

opened,  and  inspired  reason,  in  a  never-ending  stream 
of  music,  would  pour  forth.  In  1818  Goethe  had  this 
music  played  to  him  for  three  or  four  hours  a  day  for 
three  whole  weeks.  Referring  to  the  perfect  sense  of 
repose  which  this  gave  him,  he  used  to  say,  "I  go  to 
bed,  and  Schutz  plays  me  Sebastian." 

Schutz  sometimes  played  well  into  the  night.  Goethe, 
Zelter,  and  he  often  gave  one  another  Bach's  music  as 
presents,  his  chorales,  for  instance,  and  the  "Well- 
tempered  Clavichord."  It  must  also  be  mentioned  to 
Zelter's  great  credit  that  he  was  the  first  to  revive  the 
Passion  according  to  St.  Matthew.  He  conducted  it  in 
Berlin  with  his  Singakademie,  his  regiment,  as  he 
called  it,  with  the  support  of  young  Mendelssohn.155 
Zelter's  letters  to  Goethe  frequently  mentioned  the 
wonderful  wealth  of  organ  music  which  he  had  intro- 
duced.156 And  Goethe's  whole  being  vibrated  in  unison 
with  this  mighty  ocean,  with  its  roar  heard  from  afar.157 

Since  for  Goethe  there  was  no  musical  enjoyment 
in  which  reason  did  not  share,  his  letters  to  Zelter  fre- 
quently show  his  scientific  interest  in  Bach.  Now  he  is 
studying  the  second  volume  of  Rochlitz's  essays  On 
Bach's  Compositions  for  the  Keyboard  (1825);  now 
he  questions  Zelter  eagerly  on  the  Couperins,  and 
their  alleged   influence   on  John   Sebastian    (1827). 

=  121 

His  anthropocentric  genius  is  always  seeking  the 
principles  of  art  and  science  in  the  laws  which  govern 
the  human  body  and  its  sensibilities.158  In  his  study 
of  the  relations  of  body  and  mind  in  music,  he  points 
out  the  importance,  as  shown  in  Bach,  of  the  foot  and 
of  the  hand  in  organ-playing.159 

Goethe  saw  far  beyond  John  Sebastian  and  that  pre- 
classic  age  of  which  the  men  of  letters  and  even  the 
musicians  of  his  day  knew  so  little.  He  was  well  ac- 
quainted with  the  vocal  polyphony  of  the  sixteenth 
century.  He  had  discovered  its  beauty  during  his  stay 
in  Rome  in  Lent,  1788,  at  the  Sistine  Chapel,  and  his 
friend  Christoph  Kayser  had  helped  him  to  under- 
stand it.  They  had  listened  together  assiduously  to  the 
a  cappella  works  by  Palestrina,  Morales,  and  Allegri. 
In  Milan  they  had  studied  the  Ambrosian  chants. 

Goethe  had  also  commissioned  Kayser  to  make  re- 
searches into  ancient  music,  because  his  intuition  told 
him  that  here  was  to  be  found  the  source  of  Christian 
chants.160  Later,  when  at  Weimar  Goethe  attended  the 
Easter  church  services  which  were  sung  by  the  Greek 
choir  of  the  hereditary  princes,  he  was  struck  by  the 
close  relation  between  the  Russian  hymns  and  the  Sis- 
tine  chants,  and  he  asked  Zelter  to  tell  him  something 
of  the  origin  of  old  Byzantine  music.161  But  Zelter's 

122  = 

classical  erudition  was  so  poor  that  he  did  not  even 
know  the  meaning  of  the  word  "Byzantine."162 

In  Rochlitz  he  would  have  found  a  musical  guide  of 
much  greater  culture.  But,  in  spite  of  his  long  connec- 
tion with  him,  it  seems  as  if  Goethe  feared  to  offend 
his  old  friend  Zelter  if  he  summoned  Rochlitz  to 
Weimar.163  However,  he  read  Rochlitz's  books,  and 
especially  during  the  latter  part  of  his  life,  when  he 
went  out  less,  he  studied  musical  history  assiduously 


All  this,  however,  did  not  satisfy  his  intellectual 
hunger.  In  music,  as  in  all  other  branches  of  knowl- 
edge, his  mind  sought  to  deduce  a  scientific  theory  from 
his  experiences  and  the  facts  which  came  to  his  knowl- 
edge. He  sought  to  establish  a  Tonlehre  (Theory  of 
Musical  Sounds)  as  a  parallel  to  his  Earbenlehre  (Col- 
our Theory) .  His  aim  was  the  discovery,  in  the  multi- 
plicity of  phenomena,  of  the  primitive  and  central 
Unit,  rtSo  muss  das  dies  eins  werden,  dies  aus  Einem 
entspringen  und  zu  Einem  zuruckkehren  .  .  .  (1810) 
("So  everything  must  become  one,  everything  must 
issue  from  one  source,  and  must  revert  to  it"). 

He  found  some  eminent  associates  with  whom  to 
discuss  the  problem  of  natural  science  in  music:  the 
mathematician,  Johann  Friedrich  Christian  Verneburg 

=  123 

of  Eisenach  (about  1808-11),  and  the  famous  special- 
ist in  acoustics,  Ernst  Chladni  of  Wittenberg  (between 
1803  and  1816),  whom  he  liked  for  his  independence 
of  academic  science.  But  his  usual  colleagues  in  these 
discussions  were  his  Zelter,  who  recited  to  him  such 
science  as  he  had  learnt  by  heart  and  whose  schoolboy 
creeds  Goethe  mercilessly  crushed,  and  an  intelligent 
young  man,  Christian  Schlosser;  Goethe  intended  to 
make  the  latter  his  musical  secretary,  to  write,  in  ac- 
cordance with  the  lines  laid  down  by  the  master,  the 
Tonlehre,  which  he  proposed  to  publish.  Schlosser, 
however,  was  not  interested  in  this.  Lacking  his  col- 
laboration, Goethe  was  unable  to  carry  out  his  plan, 
but  the  scheme  was  never  abandoned.165  So  keen  was 
his  interest  in  it,  that,  as  late  as  the  year  1827,  he  had 
the  main  lines  of  his  Tonlehre  written  out  elaborately 
on  a  large  sheet,  which  he  framed  and  hung  in  his  bed- 
room. Although,  according  to  his  own  admission,  he 
never  got  beyond  the  mere  skeleton  of  this  science,  his 
theories  are  considered  worthy  of  discussion  by  some 
authoritative  writers  on  music  of  our  present  day.  Hans 
Joachim  Moser  published  a  monograph  on  Goethe  und 
die  Musikalische  Akustik™  and  Hugo  Riemann  ex- 
pressed his  approval  of  Goethe's  theories. 

The  problem  which  interested  Goethe  particularly, 
and  at  which  he  worked  till  the  eve  of  his  death167  was 


that  of  the  minor  mode.  He  discussed  it  with  Zelter 
in  1808, 1810,  and  1821,  and  with  Schlosser  in  1814-15. 
Zelter's  replies  did  not  satisfy  him  at  all,  for  Zelter 
had  recourse  to  explanations  based  on  the  physics  of 
music — i.e.,  the  divisions  of  the  string.  The  minor 
third,  according  to  him,  was  not  a  spontaneous  mani- 
festation of  nature,  but  a  product  of  art,  derived  from 
the  major  third.  Goethe  disagreed  entirely.  It  is  human 
nature,  he  said,  which  is  the  source  of  the  musical 
universe  (Tonwelt) .  It  is  in  this  direction  that  we  must 
search,  and  not  experiment  with  artificial  instruments 
such  as  are  used  for  mathematical  tests.  "What  in- 
deed is  a  string  and  its  mechanical  divisions,  com- 
pared with  the  musician's  ear?  We  can  go  further  and 
say,  What  are  natural  phenomena  compared  with  the 
man  who  must  first  master  and  modify  them  all,  in 
order  to  be  able,  in  a  certain  degree,  to  assimilate 

His  powerful  subjectivism  eagerly  seized  upon 
Schlosser 's  suggestion,  that  the  two  modes,  major  and 
minor,  are  two  different  manifestations  of  the  same 
single  Tonmonade — the  living  unit  of  sound.  "If  the 
Tonmonade  expands,  the  result  is  the  major  mode,  if  it 
contracts,  then  the  minor  mode  is  produced." 

The  centre  of  the  monad  is  formed  by  the  deepest 
sound,  and  the  periphery  by  the  highest.  But  Goethe 

=  125 

and  Schlosser  did  not  agree  on  the  aesthetic  and  intel- 
lectual value  of  the  two  modes.  Schlosser,  with  a  strong 
inclination  towards  romantic  religiosity,  was  of 
the  opinion  that  music's  centre  of  gravity  was  to  be 
found  in  the  melancholy  of  the  soul  which  tends  to 
introspection,  and  withdraws  from  outside  influ- 
ences; the  minor  mode  to  him  was  the  most  intimate 
expression  of  the  human  heart  in  its  aspiration  towards 
the  infinite.  Goethe  protested  against  this;  he  would 
not  allow  that  sadness  is  the  centre  of  the  soul  and  of 
art.  He  was  willing  to  admit  that  human  nature  has  a 
double  tendency.  On  the  one  hand  it  seeks  the  objec- 
tive, demands  activity,  and  claims  external  things;  on 
the  other  it  seeks  the  subjective,  demands  concentra- 
tion, and  claims  those  things  which  are  within  itself. 
The  major  mode  was  the  expression  of  all  that  excited, 
exalted,  and  propelled  the  soul  towards  the  outer 
world.  The  minor  mode  was,  perhaps,  the  mode  of 
concentration.  But  concentration  was  in  no  sense  syn- 
onymous with  sadness.  No,  a  thousand  times  no!  What 
sadness  could  there  be  in  a  polonaise  that  was  in  a 
minor  key  ?  These  were  popular  dances,  and  those  who 
joined  in  them  did  so  with  an  ardent  desire  to  com- 
mingle soul  and  body.  Was  this  sadness  or  voluptuous- 
ness?109 (How  fine  it  is  to  watch  the  vigorous  old  man 
brush  aside  with  a  sweep  of  his  hand  all  the  mel- 


ancholy  of  the  effeminate  romanticism  which  was  to 

But  there  is  another  example,  and  a  much  more  in- 
teresting one.  I  mean  the  Marseillaise,  that  Marseillaise 
which  Beethoven,  in  some  inexplicable  way,  never 
seems  to  have  noticed  and  of  which  I  cannot  discover 
a  single  trace  in  his  work.  How  utterly  unaware  he  was 
of  it  is  shown  by  the  fact  that,  as  late  as  1813,  he  intro- 
duced the  grotesque  Malbrouck  march  in  his  Battle  of 
Vittoria  to  represent  his  idea  of  the  French.170 

Goethe  had  heard  it  on  the  battle  field  of  the 
Argonne,  at  Valmy  and  in  Mainz,  and  he  remained 
under  its  stimulating  influence  for  the  whole  of  his 
life.  It  is  interesting  to  know  that  what  impressed  him 
most,  and  what  he  remembered  best,  was  the  sombre 
and  menacing  minor,  the  shadow,  not  the  light.  But 
for  him  this  shadow  had  nothing  in  common  with  a 
depression  of  the  spirit.  It  was,  on  the  contrary,  an 
explosion  of  avenging  fury.  .  .  . 

"I  know  nothing  more  terrible  than  military  music 
in  a  minor  key.  Here  the  two  extremes  clash,  and 
wound  the  heart  instead  of  stunning  it.  The  most  re- 
markable example  of  this  is  the  Marseillaise." 

"Dagegen  ich  nie  etwas  schrecklicheres  gekannt  habe 
als  einen  kriegerischen  Marsch  aus  dem  Mollton.  Hier 
wirken  die  beiden  Vole  innerlich  gegeneinander  und 

=  127 

quetschen  das  Herz,  anstatt  es  zu  indifferenzieren.  Das 
eminenteste  Beispiel  gibt  uns  der  Marseiller  Marsch."111 

We  see  then  how  wide  and  prolonged  Goethe's  musi- 
cal experience  had  been;  he  had  played  himself,  he 
had  heard  a  great  variety  of  musical  performances,  he 
had  meditated  upon  music,  he  had  studied  its  history 
and  science.  What  then  were  his  shortcomings,  what 
was  there  in  the  music  of  the  time  which  escaped  him? 

Intellectually,  very  little  indeed.  The  new  tendencies 
which  were  working  in  were  felt  by  him  as  well 
as  by  others.  In  June,  1805,  when  he  was  writing 
a  commentary  on  he  Neveu  de  Rameau,  he  distin- 
guished between  two  musical  schools — the  Italian, 
essentially  vocal  and  melodic,  and  the  German,  instru- 
mental and  harmonic — and  he  longed  for  the  advent 
of  the  master,  who,  uniting  the  two,  should  introduce 
into  instrumental  music  the  forces  of  sentiment 

He  was  right,  and  his  conclusion  should  have  been, 
"The  master  has  come  ...  he  is  Beethoven."  But  at 
that  time  Goethe  had  not  yet  heard  any  of  his  music.173 

Did  Goethe  lay  down  any  limits  to  the  expressive 
and  descriptive  powers  of  the  art  of  sound?  No;  when 
in  1818  Adalbert  Schoepke  asked  him,  "What  are  the 

128  ^= 

limits  of  expression  in  music?"  Goethe  answered,  "It 
is  the  great  and  noble  privilege  of  music  to  create  a 
mood  within  us  without  using  ordinary  exterior  means 
for  the  purpose"  (frDas  Inner e  in  Stimmung  zu  setzen, 
ohne  die  gemeinen  ausseren  Mittel  zu  brauchen,  ist  der 
Musik  grosses  und  edles  Vorrecht") . 

These  are  exactly  Beethoven's  principles,  (fMehr 
Ausdruck  der  Empfindung  als  Mahler ei"  (rather  an 
expression  of  feelings  than  a  pictorial  representation). 
More  than  that,  Goethe  recognized  that  music  is 
privileged  to  go  further  than  reason,  and  to  penetrate 
regions  for  ever  closed  to  speech  and  analytic  intelli- 
gence. In  his  conversations  with  Eckermann  on  "de- 
moniacal matters"  ("das  Damonische")  he  referred 
to  the  unconscious  or  subconscious  poetry,  for  the 
comprehension  of  which  intelligence  and  reason  prove 
insufficient,  and  continued: 

"The  same  applies,  in  the  highest  degree  to  music, 
because  music  occupies  so  lofty  a  plane  that  reason 
cannot  approach  it;  from  music  emanates  an  influence 
which  dominates  all,  an  influence  of  which  no  man  may 
give  an  account"  ("Desgleichen  ist  es  in  der  Musik  im 
hbchsten  Grade,  denn  sie  steht  so  hoch  dass  kein  Ver- 
stand  ihr  beikommen  kann,  und  es  geht  von  ihr  eine 
Wirkung  aus,  die  Alles  beherrscht  und  von  der  Nie- 
mand  im  Stand e  'ist,  sich  Rechenschajt  zu  geben")  .1U 


Is  this  not  a  confirmation  of  the  exalted  profession 
of  faith  which  Beethoven  made  to  Bettina:175 

"Music  is  the  single,  the  immaterial  entry  into  a 
higher  world  of  knowledge  which  envelops  man  but 
which  he  cannot  understand." 

It  is  indeed  much  that  this  master  of  intelligence, 
the  great  Goethe,  should  at  the  close  of  his  life  recog- 
nize the  sovereign  rights  of  musical  intuition. 

Would  it  then  not  have  been  possible  for  Beethoven 
and  Goethe  to  agree?  What  was  the  stumbling-block 
to  Goethe's  musical  understanding?  As  far  as  intellec- 
tual understanding  is  concerned,  there  was  none.  But 
his  physiological  tolerance  failed  him  when  those  natu- 
ral limits  were  reached  which  advanced  age  imposes 
on  organic  sensitiveness.  It  was  asking  too  much  of  a 
man  of  the  time  of  Cimarosa,  Haydn,  and  Mozart  to 
share  the  feelings  of  the  age  of  Weber,  Schubert,  and 
Berlioz.176  Is  any  one  of  us  capable  of  a  complete  re- 
juvenation after  half  a  century  of  life?  The  only  new 
musical  genius  whom  Goethe  could  normally  have 
adopted  and  incorporated  in  himself,  during  the  cycle 
of  his  life,  was  Beethoven.  I  have  tried  to  explain  the 
reason  why  he  failed  to  do  so. 

Certainly  the  greatness  and  the  achievements  of 
Weber,  Schubert,  and  Berlioz  escaped  him.  It  is  of 

130  = 

interest,  then,  to  examine  more  closely  certain  of  these 
failures  in  understanding,  particularly  in  the  case  of 

Schubert,  in  1814,  at  the  age  of  seventeen,  had  made 
his  first  appearance  and  during  the  following  year  had 
set  to  music  some  of  Goethe's  Lieder\  in  1816  he  com- 
posed his  splendid  Erl  King,  and  asked  the  poet, 
through  his  friend  Spaun,  for  permission  to  dedicate 
this  work  to  him.  Goethe  did  not  reply;  he  had  not 
read  it,  for  his  time  was  entirely  taken  up  with  other 
matters.  And  who  was  there  to  sing  it  to  him?  "Who 
knew  the  name  of  "Schubert"  in  1815  ? 

His  attitude  of  refusal  was  more  serious  when,  ten 
years  later,  on  June  16,  1825,  Goethe  received  on  the 
same  day  a  quartet  by  Mendelssohn  and  the  wonderful 
melody,  An  Schwager  Kronos,  and  two  other  songs, 
An  Mignon  and  Ganymed,  by  Schubert,  with  a  very 
respectful  dedication  to  himself.  Goethe  mentioned 
with  satisfaction  the  gift  from  Mendelssohn,  whom  he 
liked  personally,  but  he  never  replied  to  Schubert.  Is 
there  any  excuse  for  this?  Weimar's  best  musician, 
Hummel,  "discovered"  Schubert  only  in  1827;  Mari- 
anna  von  Willemer,  as  always  well  in  advance  of 
others,  had  been  greatly  impressed  by  the  Lieder  from 
the  Divan  and  had  mentioned  them  to  Goethe;  she  had 


forgotten  only  one  detail  in  her  letter,  the  composer's 

There  is,  however,  proof  that  between  1825  and 
1830  Goethe  heard  some  of  Schubert's  most  famous 
Lieder,  and  that  his  first  attitude  was  strong  disap- 
proval. One  of  the  works  was  the  Erl  King.  Can  we 
wonder?  Goethe  naturally  judged  it  from  the  poet's 
point  of  view.177  He  had  written  the  poem  as  the  simple 
story  told  by  a  poor  washerwoman,  who  hums  it,  almost 
without  giving  a  thought  to  the  words;  the  song  weaves 
about  her  and  her  work  an  atmosphere  of  popular 
fantasy.  .  .  .  Goethe  was  now  presented  with  a  melo- 
dramatic piece  full  of  theatrical  effects — raging  temp- 
ests and  so  on.  .  .  .  He  was  annoyed  with  the  light- 
ning flashes,  and  the  rolling  thunder,  so  out  of  all 
proportion  to  his  simple  idyll.  He  saw  in  the  song 
merely  lack  of  intelligence  and  exaggeration.  He 
shrugged  his  shoulders.  .  .  .  We  can  hear  Zelter  scoff- 
ing at  Beethoven,  "Those  people  use  the  club  of 
Hercules  to  kill  a  fly!" 

If  there  was  one  vice  in  art  which  Goethe  could  not 
tolerate,  it  was  the  ffNon  erat  is  locus"  ("Out  of  place") . 

But  though  he  grumbled  to  his  heart's  content  at  the 
liberty  which  the  composer  had  taken  with  his  work, 
could  he  not  have  risen  above  it  and  been  artist  enough 

132  ^^ 

to  see  the  beauty  of  the  music,  even  if  its  effect  differed 
from  his  own  conception? 

He  did  recognize  it.  When,  on  April  24,  1830,  Wil- 
helmine  Schroder-Devrient  came  to  his  house  and  sang 
the  Erl  King,  he  was  moved  to  the  very  fibres  of  his 
being,  and  he  was  noble  enough  to  make  his  mea  culpa 
to  the  spirit  of  Schubert.  He  said:  "I  had  already 
heard  this  song,  and  it  meant  nothing  to  me.  But  sung 
like  this,  it  conjures  up  a  great  picture  before  my  eyes." 
And  he  kissed  the  forehead  of  the  inspiring  singer. 

Similarly,  a  month  later  (May  25)  he  had  at  last  to 
bow  his  head,  whether  he  liked  it  or  not,  before  the 
elemental  force  of  the  C  Minor  Symphony,  which  Men- 
delssohn unrolled  before  him. 

At  the  age  of  eighty-one  he  had  still  sufficient  vigour 
to  cross  the  mighty  ravine  which  Beethoven  and  Schu- 
bert had  cleft,  as  it  were,  in  the  road  of  his  musical 
appreciation.  Is  this  not  an  achievement?  None  could 
say  that  in  him  old  age  had  frozen  the  stream  of  life. 
Which  of  us  at  his  age  would  keep  so  open  a  mind  and 
display  such  energy? 

Of  Berlioz  Goethe  knew  nothing.  Zelter's  abomina- 
ble letter,  in  which  he  poured  a  stream  of  the  vilest 
invective  on  Berlioz's  Eight  Scenes  from  Faust,  had  dis- 
gusted him  for  ever  with  this  style  of  composition 
(June,  1829). 

=  133 

In  conclusion,  Weber.  Here  Goethe's  lack  of  ap- 
preciation was  due  fundamentally  to  the  personal 
antipathy  of  which  I  have  already  written,  and  to  the 
old  man's  intolerance  of  the  din  of  brasses  and  percus- 
sion instruments  which  were  then  a  novel  feature  of 
orchestration.  Even  Spontini,  whom  Goethe  held  in 
particularly  high  esteem,  upset  him  with  his  noisy 
orchestration  of  his  Vestale.  "This  noise,"  he  told 
Christian  Lobe,  "quickly  tires  me"  {ntich  bald 
ermudet).  To  which  Lobe  replied  that  one  got  used 
to  it  as  one  got  used  to  Mozart,  who  at  first  proved 
very  tiring. 

"But  there  must  be  a  limit,"  Goethe  went  on,  "be- 
yond which  one  cannot  go  without  injury  to  the  ear." 

"No  doubt  there  is,"  replied  the  young  man.  "But 
the  fact  that  most  people  can  now  listen  to  Spontini, 
seems  to  prove  that  this  limit  has  not  yet  been  reached." 

And  Goethe,  faced  with  the  fact,  admitted  that  it 
might  be  so  (ff£j  mag  sein"). 

But  this  was  in  truth  the  whole  point,  and  this  was 
the  real  reason  of  the  dignus  intrare,  which  he  granted, 
or  refused,  to  new  works  of  art,  "There  must  be  a 
limit.  ..."  Yes.  But  where  is  it?  Nothing  is  more 
natural  than  that  in  1829  the  aged  Goethe  and  his  old 
friend  Zelter  should  have  found  that  the  new  music 

134  == 

had  exceeded  this  limit,  not  only  in  the  means  which 
it  employed,  but  also  in  its  portrayal  of  emotion. 

"It  exceeds  the  level  of  human  sensibility.  We  can 
no  longer  follow  it  either  in  thought  or  action." 
("Alles  ist  jetzt  ultra.  Alles  transzendiert  unauf- 
haltsam  an  Denken  und  Tun  .  .  ."). 

Just  as  our  pre-war  generation  judges  the  youth  of 
today,  so  Goethe  deplored  that,  long  before  maturity, 
the  younger  generation  had  been  shaken  to  the  roots, 
"that  the  whirlwind  of  the  times  had  carried  it  away" 
before  quiet  and  meditation  had  had  time  to  restore  to 
it  balance  of  personality.  The  year  1830,  as  Goethe 
saw  it,  was  already  given  over  to  the  turmoil  of  dis- 
cordance and  erratic  action  for  which  we  blame — or 
for  which  we  praise — the  year  1930.  In  reality  it  is 
the  periodical  conflict  of  two  successive  stages  of  sen- 
sitiveness, a  conflict  which  follows  unceasingly  a  curve 
of  regular  progression,  without,  however,  passing  cer- 
tain limits;  for,  as  the  curve  rises,  the  lower  parts 
gradually  vanish,  the  sensitiveness  of  former  periods 
disappears;  it  is,  as  it  were,  a  new  keyboard,  which  has 
the  same  number  of  octaves  as  the  old.  But,  while  the 
structure  remains  the  same,  the  mentality  which  is 
housed  in  it  shifts  from  one  level  to  another.  And  as 
organic  tolerance  thus  moves  with  the  times,  those  who 
live  longer  than  the  normal  span  of  life  are  bound  to 

j        =135 

suffer  from  variations  in  the  rhythm  and  in  the  intensity 
of  their  sensations.  They  cannot  acclimatize  themselves 
to  the  new  conditions. 

The  onward  march  of  the  generations  is  strictly  nor- 
mal. Goethe  at  the  beginning  of  his  artistic  career  had 
heard  in  1763  the  playing  of  the  child  Mozart.  Just 
before  his  death  he  had  listened  to  little  Clara  Wieck 
(October  4  and  5,  1831),  who  was  to  become  Schu- 
mann's wife  and  muse.178  He  had  withstood  with  a 
magnificent  strength  the  strain  induced  by  the  conflict 
of  two  epochs  so  different  in  character. 

Our  survey  of  Goethe's  musical  disposition  would  be 
far  from  complete  if  we  merely  considered  its  passive 
side — hearing  and  understanding.  A  powerful  nature, 
a  mind  such  as  his,  receives  nothing  without  restoring 
it  enriched  and  ennobled.  Wherever  Goethe  passed,  he 

As,  however,  he  was  not  a  musician  by  profession, 
but  a  poet,  it  is  interesting  to  discover  what  traces 
music  has  left  in  his  poetic  creations. 

The  first  trace  is  his  keen  desire  to  write  libretti:  the 
importance  which  Goethe  attributes  to  this,  and  the 
tenacity  with  which  he  persevered  in  it,  rather  surprises 
us.  This  inclination  of  his  may  almost  be  compared  to 

136  ^^ 

the  great  passion  which  Ingres,  the  famous  painter,  had 
for  his  violin.179  Many  hours,  many  days  were  given  to 
this  work;  his  efforts  and  his  researches  deserved  a 
nobler  object  and  a  more  striking  success. 

Goethe  sketched  or  attempted  one  form  of  musical 
play  after  the  other.  In  1766,  in  early  youth,  he  wrote 
a  libretto  for  an  Italian  operetta,  La  Sposa  Rapita.180 
Then  followed  the  German  Sings  pi  el  (ballad  opera) , 
or  the  Lusts piel  (prose  comedy),  to  which  he  added 
arias  and  Lieder\  in  1773-74  he  wrote  his  Erwin  und 
Elmire,  for  which  Johann  Andreas  Offenbach  com- 
posed the  score.  Later  in  life,  as  we  have  seen,  he  was 
considering  the  possibility  of  a  dramatic-musical  col- 
laboration with  Gluck,  and  when  the  old  man  did  not 
receive  him  kindly  he  chose  a  young  and  gifted  musi- 
cal friend,  Christoph  Kayser,  whom  he  hoped  to  shape 
in  accordance  with  his  views.  At  the  same  time,  with 
his  friend,  Korona  Schroter,  he  mastered  the  art  of  the 
ballet  and  devised  new  forms  (1782).  During  the  first 
period  of  his  life  at  Weimar  everything  that  he  wrote 
was  intended  for  accompaniment  by  instrumental  or 
vocal  music.  A  good  example  of  this  is  his  Proserpina, 
2l  monodrama,  spoken  to  music,  after  the  style  of 
Rousseau  (1776).  Another  example  is  his  Lila,  a  fairy 
opera.  It  was  then  that  he  studied  Handel's  and 
Gluck's  declamatory  style.  His  plans,  however,  could 

=  137 

not  be  fully  carried  out  in  Weimar,  because  he  lacked 
the  cooperation  of  a  competent  musician. 

In  1779-80  he  went  with  his  grand  duke  to  Switzer- 
land. His  chief  motive  for  going  was  the  hope  of  meet- 
ing Kayser  again,  who  had  settled  in  Zurich,  and  of 
writing  with  him  a  Sings  pi  el  on  a  Swiss  subject.  This 
was  Jery  und  Bately.  His  letters  to  Kayser  give  us  a 
very  clear  definition  of  the  music  which  he  wanted. 
This  time  it  was  Quinault  who  gave  orders  to  Lulli.* 
For  this  play  Goethe  wanted  three  distinct  kinds  of 

1.  Folk  songs. 

2.  Emotional  airs. 

3.  Music  to  accompany  dialogue,  adapted  to  the 
miming  of  the  actors. 

This  dialogue  must  preserve  a  unity  of  style,  which 
should  be  based,  if  possible,  on  a  principal  theme  and 
developed  by  modulations,  modes  and  rhythms,  but  it 
should  never  lose  its  logical  sense  and  its  outline,  which 
must  be  simple  and  clear.  "The  dialogue  must  be  like 
a  smooth  golden  ring,  in  which  the  airs  and  Lieder  are 
set  like  precious  stones"  (frDer  Dialog  muss  wie  ein 
glatter  goldener  Ring  sein,  auf  dem  Arien  und  Lieder 
wie  Edelgesteine  aufsitzen")  .m 

*  Translator's  Note. — Lulli,  the  court  musician  of  Louis  XIV,  was 
accustomed  to  prescribe  to  Quinault,  a  poet  of  merit,  the  subject  and  treat- 
ment of  the  libretti  which  he  required  for  his  operas. 

138  ^^ 

The  composer,  so  Goethe  maintained,  must  absotb 
thoroughly  the  character  of  the  piece.  This  general 
character  should  dictate  the  style  of  all  the  melodies 
and  accompaniments.  The  orchestra  should  be  quite 
small,  and  the  accompaniment  not  overpowering.  "The 
riches  of  music  lie  in  discretion.  A  composer  who 
knows  his  work  can  do  more  with  two  violins,  a  viola, 
and  a  bass,  than  others  with  a  whole  orchestra."  The 
wood-wind  should  be  what  spice  is  to  a  dish.  The 
instruments  should  be  used  one  by  one:  now  the  flute, 
now  the  oboe,  now  the  bassoon.  In  this  way  the  purity 
of  the  music  will  give  the  greater  pleasure.  Most  mod- 
ern composers,  on  the  contrary,  serve  everything  to- 
gether, with  the  result  that  fish  and  meat,  whether 
roasted  or  boiled,  taste  the  same.182 

Goethe,  however,  was  then  only  at  the  beginning  of 
his  misunderstandings  with  Kayser.  The  latter  worked 
so  slowly  at  his  composition,  that  Goethe  had  to  take 
the  play  from  him  and  give  it  to  another  composer,  the 
nobleman  in  charge  of  the  amusements  at  the  Court  of 
Weimar.  Finally  he  lost  all  interest  in  the  matter. 

Nevertheless,  Goethe  did  not  give  up  hope  of 
Kayser.  He  had  him  invited  to  Weimar.  In  vain  did  he 
try  to  make  a  man  of  the  world  of  him,  in  vain  did  he 
persuade  him  to  take  to  heart  the  last  teachings  of 
Gluck,  just  before  the  latter 's  death.  In  vain — all  in 


vain!  Yet  in  1783  he  wrote  the  libretti  for  five  ballad 
operas  (Siugspiele).183 

Some  time  afterwards  he  heard  a  good  Italian  com- 
pany and  at  once  abandoned  the  hybrid  form  of  spoken 
dialogue  mixed  with  comic-opera  songs,  and  decided 
to  write,  still  with  Kayser's  cooperation,  short  operet- 
tas, entirely  sung,  and  opera  buff  a.  For  five  years,  from 
1784  to  1789,  he  worked  at  an  operetta,  with  three 
characters — Scapin,  Scapine,  and  the  doctor — "Scherz, 
List  und  Racbe"  ("Jest>  Cunning,  and  Vengeance"). 
On  this  subject  he  corresponded  with  Kayser  almost 
as  widely  as  he  corresponded  with  Schiller  on  the  sub- 
ject of  Wilhelm  Meister.  All  the  evidence  goes  to 
show  that  he  attached  far  greater  importance  to  the 
subject  than  it  really  deserved.  He  desired  to  create  in 
Germany  a  new  kind  of  dramatic-musical  art,  and  he 
wanted  the  first  production  of  the  kind  to  be  a  master- 
piece. But  apart  from  the  fact  that  he  had  no  adequate 
helper  and  had  to  do  practically  the  whole  of  the  musi- 
cian's work  as  well  as  his  own,  it  was  an  art  of  which 
he  knew  nothing;  he  had  to  learn  as  he  worked — Fit 
jabricando  jaber.  Unfortunately,  the  knowledge  which 
he  gathered  while  working  was  acquired  too  late:  it 
showed  him  his  errors  only  after  they  had  been  com- 
mitted. When  he  saw  Mozart's  //  Seraglio,  in  1785,  he 
realized  his  weak  points,  but  too  late.  Mozart,  without 

140  ^^ 

Goethe's  preliminary  process  of  thought,  but  from 
sheer  instinct,  from  the  impulse  of  genius,  had  given  the 
German  theatre  a  comedy  with  music,  full  of  feeling, 
sparkling  with  joy,  like  the  rain  and  sunshine  of  a 
lovely  day  in  spring.  Thus  Goethe  discovered  the  utter 
sterility  of  the  intellectual  perfection  which  he  had 
conceived  in  a  work  so  deeply — all  too  deeply — 
thought  out.  There  were  only  three  characters  in  the 
four  acts,  all  three  of  them  rogues.  He  now  decided  to 
have  seven  characters  and  to  give  emotion  a  large  part 
in  the  plot.  But  a  casting  which  is  almost  cold  cannot 
be  remoulded;  Kayser  had  already  shaped  himself  in 
the  first  mould,  had  lost  all  elasticity,  and  could  not 
follow  the  constant  changes  of  his  great  collaborator's 
mind.  The  final  result  was  an  unheard-of  waste  of 
time,  and  an  enormous  amount  of  work  expended  for 
no  result.  In  autumn,  1789,  Goethe,  honest  as  always, 
surveyed  his  past  efforts  and  admitted,  "All  this 
tremendous  work  is  lost"  ^Geht  die  ungeheure  Arbeit 

Of  these  ruins  the  most  enduring  relic  is  perhaps  his 
correspondence  with  Kayser,  in  which  we  find  a  power- 
ful and  striking  aesthetic  idea  of  the  theatre.  Goethe 
insisted  that  everything  in  this  work  should  be  "salta- 
tio,"1HS  which  he  described  to  Kayser  as  a  continuous 

=  141 
melodic  and  rhythmic  movement.  He  mentioned  this 

"My  highest  conception  of  drama  is  action  without 
interruption"  (J'Mein  hochster  Be  griff  vom  Drama  ist 
rastlose  Handlung"). 

Here  again  Goethe  nearly  went  too  far  in  his  con- 
ception of  intellectual  perfection.  But  he  pulled  him- 
self up.  His  knowledge  of  the  psychology  of  the  public, 
all  the  keener  for  his  experience  of  the  theatre  and  of 
actors,  showed  him  that  it  was  impossible  to  realize 
such  a  plan.  Human  nature  would  not  lend  itself  to  it. 
Goethe  came  to  the  conclusion  that  repose  must  alter- 
nate with  movement,  and  that  the  climax  of  movement 
and  of  sound  must  be  reserved  for  the  end  of  the 
piece.  It  was  what  the  masters  of  Italian  farcical  opera 
[opera  buff  a)  had  already  done  by  instinct. 

Goethe  also  gave  much  time  to  the  careful  study  of 
poetical  rhythm  in  comedy  set  to  music.  In  this  he  did 
not  follow  the  Italian  example.  Instead  of  adopting 
their  even,  flowing  phrases,  so  well  suited  to  melody, 
he  broke  them  whenever  the  action  became  passionate. 
His  ideal  of  those  days  was  very  Mozartian  and  had 
nothing  academic  or  pompous  about  it;  he  wished  to 
create  an  ensemble  of  beauty,  movement,  and  life.  This 
is  why  he  was  bored  by  the  insipid  Italian  grand  opera, 
so  cold,  so  restricted,  so  grandiloquent.  Soon  after  his 

142  ^^ 

arrival  in  Rome  he  wrote:  "I  am  too  old  for  every- 
thing except  for  what  is  true"  (JrAuch  da  hob'  ich 
wieder  gejiihlt,  dass  ich  fur  Alles  zu  alt  bin,  nur  fur's 
Wahre  nicht"). 

Hence  his  enjoyment  of  farcical  opera,  the  vivid  and 
unsullied  outpouring  of  the  Italian  nature.  His  dream 
was  to  bring  Moses'  staff  with  him  to  Germany,  the 
staff  which  would  bring  forth  water  from  the  rock. 
Mozart  could  do  it.  .  .  .  But  Mozart  was  unique  and 
was  soon  to  die.  Ah,  why  did  Goethe  wait  so  long? 
Why  did  he  not  go  to  him  at  once?  Why  did  he  per- 
sist, for  fifteen  long  years,  in  clinging  to  his  Kayser 
and  trying  to  shape  him  according  to  his  will  ?  Kayser 
was  no  doubt  a  worthy  man,  very  dignified,  highly 
moral,  religious  to  the  point  of  renunciation,186  a  good, 
well-trained  musician,  but  desperately  slow — a  shadow 
which  vanished  into  nothing  in  the  light  of  Goethe, 
the  sun.187 

In  1789,  Kayser  definitely  retired  into  his  solitude  at 
Zurich,  where  he  remained  till  his  death  in  1823. 
Goethe  was  faithful  to  his  memory,  and  never  forgot 
the  sorrow  which  Kayser's  abdication  caused  him. 

But  this  disastrous  experience,  although  it  lasted  fif- 
teen years,  did  not  discourage  him.  No  sooner  did  a 

=  143 
new  collaborator  appear  than  Goethe  at  once  resumed 
his  great  schemes  for  musical  drama.  This  time  he 
worked  with  Friedrich  Reichardt  of  Konigsberg,  a 
brilliant  and  intelligent  man,  active,  brimming  with 
energy,  inventiveness,  warmth,  and  life — the  very  op- 
posite of  Kayser.  It  was  not  Goethe  who  had  to  go 
after  the  musician.  Reichardt  came  and  came  again;  he 
wrote  and  wrote  again;  he  gave  Goethe  no  peace. 

Together  with  Johann  Abraham  Schulz,  Reichardt 
had  founded  in  Berlin  the  splendid  Lieder  school  which 
in  the  course  of  thirty  years  blossomed  over  the  whole 
of  Germany.  .  .  .  The  principle  of  the  school  was  that 
"the  composer's  music  must  interpret  the  poet's  words." 
Word  and  sound,  phrase  and  melody,  must  be  one. 
These  were  indeed  Goethe's  own  views. 

Since  1780  Reichardt  had  been  passionately  fond  of 
Goethe's  poems,  which  he  was  always  setting  to  music. 
Many  of  his  inspirations  were  delightful;  after  a  cen- 
tury and  a  half  they  still  preserve  their  delicate  per- 
fume. With  a  deep  understanding  of  Goethe's  artistic 
ideas  he  had  an  accurate  touch  for  his  declamatory 
passages.  In  the  same  scene  he  would  alternate,  with 
the  happiest  results,  instrumental  passages  and  decla- 
mation, pass  on  to  the  sung  recitative  and  then  to  the 
aria,  of  which  he  varied  the  rhythm  and  the  expressive 
character.  He  begged  Goethe  to  write  an  operatic 

144  ^^ 

libretto,  and  the  poet,  encouraging  him,  conceived  the 
idea  of  a  lyric  drama,  the  characters  of  which  would  be 
inspired  by  Ossianic  lore.  He  intended  to  incorporate 
in  this  work  the  Norse  mythology  and  the  Sagas. 

"I  have  already  formed  a  plan,  of  which  I  will  tell 
you  when  you  come  again."188 

I  like  to  imagine  the  Norns  beginning  to  weave  in 
the  Olympian's  brain  the  destiny  threads  of  the  Wan- 
derer in  Wagner's  Ring.  .  .  ,189 

He  resumed  at  the  same  time  the  subject  of  the 
Queen's  Necklace,  and  made  of  it  a  light  opera  in  three 
acts — "Die  Mystifizierten." 

In  Venice  he  met  his  composer  again,  and  Reichardt 
did  not  allow  the  promise  of  an  opera  libretto  to  grow 
cold.  But  Goethe's  interest  had  waned.  At  this  time  the 
demon  of  natural  science  was  beginning  to  obsess  him, 
and  he  had  no  longer  any  inclination  for  these  things 
(rrKein  Gemut  zu  allem  diesem  IVesen").  However, 
Reichardt  kept  close  to  his  heels,  and  so  Goethe  re- 
turned to  Fingal  and  Ossian.  But  nothing  was  to  come 
of  it.  An  evil  fate  pursued  both  poet  and  composer. 

Reichardt,  whose  sympathy  with  the  French  Revolu- 
tion had  made  him  impossible  at  the  court  of  Berlin, 
lost  his  position  as  Hofkapellmeister,  a.  post  which  gave 
him  every  opportunity  of  producing  music-drama.  And 
although  Goethe  had  become,  in  1791,  the  Oberdirek- 

=  145 
tor  of  the  Weimar  theatre,  his  provincial  stage  lacked 
the  necessary  equipment  for  such  performances. 

He  could  not  even  perform  his  ballad  operas  there, 
nor  had  he  any  hope  of  having  an  opera  performed 
on  any  other  German  stage.  Now  Goethe  would  never 
write  a  theatrical  work  in  abstractor  without  knowing 
beforehand  the  theatre,  the  actors,  and  the  public  for 
whom  the  work  was  intended.  He  therefore  abandoned 
all  idea  of  this  work  and  buried  himself  in  science 
(Farbenlehre,  1792).  Besides  this,  the  events  of  the 
time  demanded  imperiously  that  the  "toga  should  yield 
to  arms."  He  left  for  the  campaign  against  France.190 

On  his  return,  his  friendship  with  Reichardt,  the 
friend  of  France,  the  Jacobin,  cooled  considerably,  and 
under  the  influence  of  Schiller  became  a  distressing 
enmity  after  the  year  1795. 191 

Zelter  replaced  Reichardt.  In  1796  he  commenced 
his  work  on  Goethe's  Lieder.  Their  correspondence 
began  in  1799,  and  from  the  beginning  of  their  friend- 
ship they  found  that  they  were  in  closest  sympathy.  As 
early  as  1798,  Goethe  said  that  Zelter's  Lieder  were  a 
faithful  reproduction  of  his  poetic  intentions"  (^'eine 
radikale  Reproduktion  der  poetischen  Intentionen")  .192 
In  1799  he  said,  in  a  letter  to  him,  that  while  it  was 
true  that  he  had  inspired  melodies  in  Zelter,  it  was  no 

146  ^= 

less  true  that  Zelter's  melodies  had  inspired  him  to 
write  more  than  one  Lied.  "I  feel  certain  that  if  we 
were  living  together  I  would  be  in  a  more  lyric  mood 
than  I  am  at  present." 

Had  Goethe  then,  at  the  age  of  fifty,  found  at  last 
his  musical  collaborator,  of  whom  he  had  dreamt  so 

No.  He  was  only  to  meet  new  disappointments  of 
which  he  never  spoke;  for  Goethe  never  complained  to 
others,  and  always  buried  his  sorrows  within  himself. 
God  knows  he  was  not  spared  many. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  in  Zelter  he  found  his  most 
faithful,  affectionate,  and  devoted  friend,  a  friend  who, 
as  it  were,  took  root  in  him,  derived  from  him  all  the 
joy  of  living,  and  died  when  Goethe  died.193  No  doubt 
also  this  musician  became  the  most  accurate  interpreter 
of  the  ideas  in  Goethe's  Lieder,  so  accurate  that,  as  he 
told  Goethe,  "there  was  no  need  for  him  to  search  for 
new  melodies;  all  he  had  to  do  was  to  find  those  which 
were  already  in  the  poet's  mind  unknown  to  him."194 

Zelter,  however,  failed  to  understand  Goethe's  most 
persistent  dream,  to  create,  in  collaboration  with  a 
musician,  great  epic  and  dramatic  works.  It  is  possible 
that  Zelter,  realizing  that  he  was  incapable  of  carrying 
these  schemes  into  effect,  merely  pretended  incompre- 

=  147 
hension.  It  was  a  perpetual  misunderstanding.  In  1799 
Goethe  sent  Zelter  his  First  Walpurgis  Night,  and  out- 
lined to  him  his  scheme  of  composing  great  dramatic 
ballads.  Zelter,  instead  of  taking  advantage  of  the  occa- 
sion, asked  Goethe  to  write  him  an  opera  libretto.  Some 
time  before  Goethe  had  thought  of  writing  a  Greek 
tragedy  with  choruses,  The  Danaides\  but  he  aban- 
doned all  idea  of  it.  Zelter's  dramatic  collaboration 
was  limited  to  some  incidental  music  for  Egmont  and 
Gotz  von  Berlichingen,  at  Weimar.  Some  years  later 
Zelter  again  asked  for  a  text  for  an  opera,  and  sug- 
gested as  a  subject,  "Hercules"  or  "Orpheus."  The  idea 
of  setting  to  music  the  first  Faust,  published  in  1808, 
never  occurred  to  him,  this  task  being  left  to  Prince 
Radziwill.105  In  vain  did  Goethe  ask  him  to  compose 
at  least  the  music  for  some  of  the  songs,  for  instance, 
the  magnificent  chorus  of  spirits,  "Schwindet  ihr 
Dunkeln"  ("Vanish,  dark  spirits"),  when  some  scenes 
from  Faust  were  performed  at  Weimar  at  the  end  of 
1810.  Zelter  found  some  excuse  for  avoiding  the  task. 
Thus  the  unfortunate  Goethe  was  compelled  to  have 
recourse  to  his  willing  musical  factotum,  Eberwein,  the 
conductor  of  his  little  private  choir,  who  as  a  composer 
was  below  mediocrity.  Goethe  at  first  tried  him  in  his 
monodrama   Proserpina,   and   in    1814   he   discussed 

148  ^= 

Faust  with  him.  He  went  to  the  trouble  of  doing  all 
the  preparatory  work:  he  shortened  the  first  mono- 
logues, shortened  the  scene  with  Wagner,  changed  the 
whole  beginning  up  to  the  end  of  the  Easter  chorus, 
"Euch  ist  der  Meister  nah,  Euch  ist  er  da"  ("The  Master 
is  near  you,  he  is  here") ,  into  a  single  scene  in  mono- 
logue, interrupted  only  by  the  apparition  of  the  Spirit 
of  the  Earth  (Erdgeist) ,  and  the  choruses.  He  decided 
that  Faust's  words  should  have  a  soft  musical  accom- 
paniment, that  the  approach  and  the  apparition  of  the 
Spirit  of  the  Earth  were  to  be  treated  melodramatically, 
and  that  the  Easter  chorus  should  be  melodious.  Eber- 
wein  could  not  understand  how  music  could  be  intro- 
duced into  the  piece.  Goethe  made  patient  efforts  to 
explain  the  poem  to  him,  induced  him  to  feel  the  very 
pulse  of  the  music,  tried  to  make  him  realize  the 
atmosphere  of  mystery  which  pervades  Faust's  magic 
laboratory  when  he  opens  the  book  of  Nostradamus. 
.  .  .  Eberwein  could  not  grasp  it  .  .  .198  and  Goethe 
gave  it  up  .  .  .  (spring,  1815). 

Next  year  he  formed  the  great  project  of  which  we 
have  already  spoken,  the  oratorio  which  would  stand 
side  by  side  with  the  Messiah?91  Zelter  was  to  write 
the  music,  and  it  was  to  be  given  at  the  jubilee  of  the 
Reformation.  But  the  realization  of  such  a  work  soon 

=  149 

proved  to  be  hopeless.  Zelter  was  utterly  unable  to  cope 
with  it  .  .  .  and  Goethe  gave  it  up.  .  .  .  (1816).198 

How  many  times  had  Goethe  to  renounce  his  hopes! 
And  there,  close  at  hand,  was  Beethoven,  who  would 
have  been  only  too  glad  to  work  with  him  and  for  him, 
to  set  Faust  to  music,109  and  to  write,  at  his  dictation,  an 
oratorio  after  the  great  example  of  Handel! 

The  last  blow  came  in  February,  1816,  when  he 
wished  to  present  at  his  theatre  a  play  specially  written 
to  celebrate  the  German  victory,  Des  Epimenides  Er- 
wachen  ("The  Awakening  of  Epimenides");  and  the 
musicians,  his  musicians,  scoffed  at  the  work  and  at 
him!  They  had  not  even  the  decency  to  hide  it  from 
him.  Goethe  was  deeply  hurt.  He  declared  that  from 
that  day  on  he  would  never  permit  in  Weimar  the 
performance  of  any  new  music  written  for  his  poems. 
It  was  the  end  of  forty  years'  laborious  efforts  to  wed 
his  poetry  to  music  on  the  stage.  It  was  a  complete  and 
humiliating  defeat.200 

But  if  the  theatre  was  denied  him,  if,  tired  and  dis- 
appointed, he  refused  to  visit  it  except  on  rare  occa- 
sions, Goethe  had  still  not  given  up  his  cherished 
dream;  far  from  it,  for  he  concentrated  on  it  within 
himself,  on  the  stage  of  his  own  thoughts.  He  created 

150  = 

his  own  theatre,  in  perfect  freedom,  his  own  invisible 
opera,  his  great  lyric  drama.  He  gave  us  the  second 

There  is  no  doubt  of  this;  we  are  not  putting  for- 
ward a  hypothesis;  they  are  his  own  words. 

It  was  into  this  stream  of  thought  that  Goethe, 
throughout  his  life,  directed  the  torrents  of  poetry  and 
music  which  flooded  his  subconscious  being.  His  aim 
was  that  stage  representation  should  include  every 
musical  resource — instrumental  music,  solo  voices, 
choruses  as  well  as  scenery.  Speaking  to  Eckermann,2ffl 
Goethe  stated,  forcibly: 

"The  first  part  of  Faust  can  only  be  entrusted  to  the 
greatest  tragedians.  Then,  in  the  operatic  part  (tm 
Telle  der  Oper),  the  different  characters  must  be  in 
the  hands  of  the  finest  singers.  The  role  of  Helen  can- 
not be  played  by  one  artist;  two  great  artists  are  re- 
quired for  this,  for  it  is  very  rare  that  a  singer  is  at  the 
same  time  a  tragedian  of  the  first  rank." 

But  where  could  a  composer  be  found  who  com- 
bined, in  accordance  with  Goethe's  express  wish,  "the 
German  natural  characteristics  with  the  Italian  style" 
(f 'welch >er  seine  deutsche  Natur  mit  der  italienischen 
Art  und  Welse  verbande"}  ?  A  second  Mozart?  .  .  . 
Goethe  did  not  appear  to  be  very  anxious  to  find  him. 
It  looks  as  if  his  ambition  to  see  the  actual  realization 

=  151 
of  this  great  work  had  diminished  almost  to  vanishing- 
point.  When  Eckermann  showed  signs  of  impatience, 
he  answered,  calmly: 

"Let  us  wait202  and  see  what  the  gods  will  send  us  in 
due  time.  Such  things  must  not  be  hurried.  The  time 
will  come  when  the  significance  of  this  work  will  be- 
come manifest  to  mankind,  and  when  directors  of 
theatres,  poets,  and  composers  will  take  advantage 
of  it." 

He  showed  no  interest  in  the  result.  He  no  longer 
desired  to  see  the  great  work  on  the  stage.  In  his  mind 
he  had  already  seen  it.203 

Thus  ended  a  life's  effort  to  create  a  new  type  of 
theatre.  Renunciation  and  introspection  were  all  that 

But  the  second  Faust  gained  by  this  very  fact  a  far 
greater  value;  it  was  the  outcome  and  the  combination 
of  all  the  dreams  of  poetry  and  music  which  Goethe 
had  accumulated  on  the  stage  of  his  inmost  self.  How 
full  of  light  becomes  this  immense  work,  which  baffled 
all  the  critics  of  the  time  and  broke  with  all  traditional 
forms!  ...  It  is  a  universe  in  the  first  stages  of  crea- 
tion, when  the  Spirit  moves  upon  the  face  of  the  waters, 
awaiting  the  "Let  there  be  light," — the  light  of  the 
second  Goethe,  the  musician.204 

I  do  not  wish,  however,  in  writing  thus,  to  convey  the 

152  ^= 

impression  that  the  second  Faust  is,  in  my  opinion, 
merely  a  gigantic  libretto.  A  libretto  is  only  half  a 
poem.  A  work  by  Goethe,  even  when  written  for  music, 
is  in  itself  more  than  a  poem.  It  already  contains  its 
music.  As  Goethe  said  in  the  lines  which  I  quoted  at 
the  beginning  of  this  essay,  efNur  nicht  lesen,  immer 
singen!"  ("Never  read,  always  sing").  The  poem  is, 
in  itself,  a  song,  but  it  is  much  more  besides:  it  is  an 
orchestra.  In  Faust,  Parts  I  and  II,  Goethe's  work  is 
such  that  it  suggests  fairy  stories  of  the  romantic  period 
in  their  instrumental  setting.  It  is  Wagnerian,  and  even 
surpasses  the  Wagnerian  idea. 

Philip  Spitta  has  described  it  well.  Goethe,  whose 
aging  senses  could  not  respond  to  the  new  music, 
such  as  Beethoven,  Schubert,  and  Weber,  was  never- 
theless the  creator  of  the  poetical  world  which  they 
illuminated  and  painted  in  music.  Poetically,  he  created 
a  music  which  was  even  greater  than  theirs.  No  musical 
genius  ever  did,  or  ever  will  express  in  a  Lied  certain 
Lieder  by  Goethe,  which  in  two  lines  express  the 

"Ueber  alien  Gipjeln 
1st  Rub  .  .  ." 

"Was  .  .  . 

durch  das  Labyrinth  der  Brust 
Wand  el  t  in  der  Nacht  ..." 


7    ^'      i 

'  ofhi  . 


■U-<  *   ■       ««■  ••:« 


=  153 

"They  are  too  musical  to  be  set  to  music,"  said 
Spitta,  profoundly.  Only  in  instrumental  music  could 
the  expression  of  such  thought  be  attempted.  But  even 
then  it  would  be  merely  the  creation  of  an  atmosphere, 
a  circumambience  magical,  but,  alas,  empty.  The 
mighty  waves  of  light  which  rise  and  fall  on  the  ocean 
of  sound  will  always  lack  the  single  utterance  which 
should  capture  them,  making  them  one  with  the  spirit. 

Goethe  created  a  Sprachmusik  (music  of  speech) 
and  he  was  its  master.  When  he  reigned  over  his  little 
company  of  actors  in  Weimar  he  made  them  go 
through  a  very  strict  course  of  "musical  speech."  This 
was  particularly  the  case  at  the  beginning  of  the  cen- 
tury, from  1800  to  1807,  and  it  could  almost  be  said 
that  during  that  time  his  company  was  under  Goethe's 
conductor's  baton.  This  is  not  a  metaphor,  for  when 
conducting  the  rehearsals  of  plays  he  actually  used  a 
baton  to  indicate  rhythm  and  speed  of  speech.  Like 
Schiller,  Goethe  was  in  arms  against  the  "realist" 
school  and  held  that  tragedy  should  be  modelled  on 
opera.  He  conceived  his  company  of  actors  as  an  or- 
chestra, in  which  every  player  subordinates  himself  to 
the  ensemble  and  plays  his  part  punctiliously. 

He  made  Wilhelm  Meister  express  his  ideas  on  this 
subject  in  his  speech  to  the  comedians.205  "In  a  sym- 
phony no  player  would  think  of  accompanying  loudly 


another  player's  solo;  each  endeavours  to  play  in  ac- 
cordance with  the  spirit  and  intentions  of  the  composer, 
and  to  give  a  perfect  rendering  of  the  part  entrusted  to 
him,  whether  it  be  important  or  not.  Should  we  not 
work  with  the  same  precision,  with  the  same  intelli- 
gence, we  who  cultivate  an  art  far  more  elusive  than 
any  form  of  music,  for  the  reason  that  we  have  to 
portray,  with  taste  and  understanding,  not  only 
the  commonest  but  also  the  rarest  features  in  human 

Wilhelm,  thanks  to  his  duke's  favour,  was  to  his 
great  delight,  master  of  Philine  and  the  theatrical  com- 
pany.* But  his  delight  did  not  last  long,  for  Philine 
became  the  duke's  mistress  and  the  comedians  covered 
him  with  ridicule.  Nevertheless,  he  carried  out  his 
ideas.  He  conducted  the  actors  as  a  Kapellmeister  con- 
ducts his  singers  and  his  orchestra.206  He  insisted  upon 
strict  adherence  to  his  tempi,  and  his  light  and 
shade:  forte,  piano,  crescendo,  diminuendo.  In  1803 
Goethe  put  his  ideas  into  definite  form,  in  his  Rules 
for  Actors  (Regeln  fur  Schauspieler).  In  these  he  de- 
scribed declamation  as  a  "prose-music"207  (tfeine  pro- 
saische  Tonkunst").  In  the  producer's  copy  of  his 
Bride  of  Messina  he  annotated  the  text,  like  a  musical 

*  Translator's  Note. — Wilhelm  Mcister  is  really  Goethe  himself. 

=  155 

—  Here,  whispering  softly  (halblaut  rauschend). 

—  Here,  clearer  with  more  sound  (heller,  klmgender). 

—  Here,  dully  (dumpf). 

—  Here,  deep  and  awestruck  (tief,  schauerlich) \ 

—  Here,  in  a  different  tempo,  much  quicker   (muss  ein 

anderes,  v'tel  schnelleres  Tempo  gewahlt  werderi) . 

These  indications,  however,  did  not  satisfy  him.  He 
wanted  one  of  Maelzel's  mettonomes,  such  as  Bee- 
thoven and  the  musicians  of  his  time  had.  For  his 
"music-speech"  school  he  compiled  a  whole  table  of 
"bars"  in  which  the  time-length  of  each  word  and  each 
pause  was  given.  He  even  drew  a  diagram,  giving  in 
millimeters,  the  duration  for  each  punctuation  sign. 

This  fondness  for  rules  and  for  typically  German 
discipline,  threatened  at  times  to  kill  his  creative  im- 
pulse. The  poet  cannot  hide  the  drill  sergeant!  We 
might  suppose  that  such  a  method  would  lead  to  the 
mechanical  movements  of  a  regiment  drilled  at  a  word 
of  command.208  But  Anton  Genast  tells  us  that  the 
great  instructor  used  these  methods  only  with  beginners 

156  ^^ 

and  gradually  gave  them  a  free  hand,  as  they  became 
masters  of  their  technique.209 

His  actors,  however,  were  not  alone  in  being  com- 
pelled to  submit  to  the  methods  of  the  conductor  of 
an  orchestra.  Goethe,  the  master-poet,  himself  sub- 
mitted in  his  creations  to  the  spirit  of  music.  When 
his  poetical  genius  had  reached  full  maturity  (1796- 
1806)  he  sometimes  wrote  down,  before  beginning  the 
actual  composition  of  the  poem,  in  words  which  had 
neither  sequence  nor  sense,  the  sound  effects  and  the 
rhythm  of  the  lines.  When  rhymesters  would  reproach 
him  for  disregarding  the  traditional  rules  of  metre  and 
rhyme,  he  would  reply: 

"Let  me  enjoy  the  music  of  it"  ("Lass  mich  des- 
Gesanges  gemessen"). 

But  this  music  was  not  music  as  conceived  by  musi- 
cians. It  was  Goethe's  ambition  to  create  a  new  order 
of  music,  his  own  personal  achievement,210  and  to  estab- 
lish a  form  which  he  considered  superior  to  music  with- 
out words.  When  he  had  drunk  his  £11  of  ordinary 
music  the  poet-king  would  raise  the  sceptre,  which  he 
had  never  for  a  moment  laid  aside. 

"The  beauty  of  perfected  human  speech  (Rede)" 
he  told  Knebel,  "is  far  greater  than  that  of  song.  There 
is  nothing  we  can  compare  to  it:  its  inflections  and 
modulations     (Abwechslungen     und     Mannigfaltig- 

=  157 
keiten)  in  the  expression  of  our  feelings  {Gemiit}  are 
infinite  in  number.211  Song  must  return  to  simple 
speech,  when  the  greatest  dramatic  and  emotional 
heights  are  to  be  attained.  All  the  great  composers  have 
noticed  this." 

Music  was  never  to  him  what  it  is  to  great  musicians, 
namely  the  means  of  perfecting  speech.  It  is  the  poet's 
words  which  perfect  music. 

In  this  both  musician  and  poet  are  right,  if  in  each 
case  the  result  is  a  work  of  genius,  for  it  absorbs  the 
whole  of  the  world  within  them,  the  total  ego.  The 
proportions  of  the  elements  employed  by  the  ego  for 
its  conception  and  self-expression  may  vary,  but  the 
sum  total  remains  the  same.  A  Goethe  is  a  musician  in 
poetry,  just  as  a  Beethoven  is  a  poet  in  music.212  Those 
who  are  only  musicians,  those  who  are  only  poets,  are 
but  minor  princes,  whose  powers  do  not  extend  beyond 
the  borders  of  their  little  provinces.  But  Goethe  and 
Beethoven  are  emperors  of  the  soul  of  the  whole  uni- 




During  the  short  time  which  has  elapsed  since  the  pub- 
lication, as  a  serial,  of  my  first  studies  on  Goethe  and 
Beethoven,  the  biography  of  Bettina  has  been  enriched 
by  new  documents,  which  shed  further  light  on  her 
interesting  and  many-sided  personality.  The  principal 
source  has  at  last  been  tapped.  The  private  archives 
of  Wiepersdorf ,  the  family  home  of  the  Arnims,  where 
Bettina's  letters  had  been  collected,  were  jealously 
guarded  by  her  second  son,  Siegmund,  a  companion  of 
Bismarck  in  his  young  days  and  an  ultra-conservative, 
who  would  not  allow  any  outsider  to  see  his  treasure; 
they  were  opened,  after  his  death,  to  a  privileged  few 
who  were  allowed  to  make  a  careful  scrutiny  of  Bet- 
tina's correspondence  with  Goethe.213  But  a  vast  num- 
ber of  letters,  sketches  and  drafts  remained  untouched. 


162  ^^ 

In  1929  the  whole  collection  was  sold.  Public  opinion 
in  Germany,  roused  by  this  dispersal  of  historic  docu- 
ments, induced  private  munificence  to  provide  the 
means  of  buying  up  almost  immediately  and  classifying 
the  nucleus  of  this  correspondence,  namely  all  that 
refers  to  Goethe;  nevertheless  many  manuscripts  were 
scattered  to  the  four  winds.  We  have  been  able  to  dis- 
cover from  the  catalogues  of  antiquaries  some  of  the 
secrets  of  the  "Goethe-Bettina"  enigma.  The  curtain 
has  been  lifted,  in  part  at  least,  especially  on  those  days 
in  Teplitz,  in  August,  1810,  of  which  I  have  written  in 
my  first  essay,  and  which  must  have  left  on  Bettina's 
mind  a  far  deeper  impression  than  it  was  wise  for 
Goethe  to  arouse. 

Before  quoting  here  a  very  intimate  letter,  over 
which,  as  it  seems  to  me,  the  piety  of  Goethe's  admirers 
has  drawn  a  veil — a  veil  which  has  scarcely  been  raised 
— I  must  recall  in  a  few  words  to  the  reader,  who  may 
not  be  so  well  instructed  in  this  true  romance  as  are  the 
Germans,  the  principal  stages  in  Bettina's  passion  for 

It  is  indeed  a  strange  and  mysterious  story,  a  life's 
dream,  from  which  the  heroine  could  never  free  her- 
self, even  for  a  moment.  It  is  a  case  of  invincible  auto- 
suggestion, a  destiny  ordained,  as  it  were,  at  birth,  and, 

E  163 

as  Bettina  would  have  told  us,  a  reincarnation  of  love 
beyond  the  grave. 

Her  mother,  Maximiliana  La  Roche,  a  beautiful 
woman,  native  of  the  Rhine  Provinces,  was  loved  by 
Goethe  when  he  was  twenty-three  and  she  was  sixteen 
(1772-73).  This  love  was  not  a  passing  infatuation, 
but  Maximiliana,  obedient  to  her  parents'  wish,  mar- 
ried a  merchant  named  Brentano  and  settled  in  Frank- 
furt, where  Bettina  was  born  on  April  4,  178 5. 214 

After  her  mother's  premature  death  in  1793,  Bettina 
was  brought  up  in  a  convent,  where  the  works  of  poets 
were  not  accessible  to  her.  So  she  was  seventeen  before 
she  read  Goethe's  poems,  which  at  first  she  did  not 
understand.215  During  the  years  which  followed,  how- 
ever, she  came  by  degrees  to  appreciate  their  charm, 
and  her  disposition,  which  was  wholesome,  fresh,  and 
spontaneous,  set  her  apart  from  the  malevolent  pru- 
dishness  of  Cassel  society,  the  people  who  expressed 
disgust  at  Egmont's  "vulgarities"  and  at  the  poet's 
"platitudes."  This  innocent  attraction  for  Goethe  had, 
however,  no  personal  character,  until  that  fateful  day 
in  June,  1806,  when,  at  her  father's  house  in  Offenbach, 
she  discovered  by  chance  eighty-four  letters  from 
Goethe  to  her  grandmother,  Sophie  La  Roche,  written 
between  1772  and  1775,  full  of  the  young  man's  adora- 
tion of  her  mother. 

164  ^^ 

This  revelation  had  an  overwhelming  effect  on  the 
young  girl.  She  copied  the  whole  correspondence  sev- 
eral times.  (One  of  these  copies  was  sold  by  auction 
last  year. )  She  learnt  them  by  heart.  And  this  sensitive 
dreamer,  to  whose  burning  eyes  the  beauties  of  nature 
were  an  open  book,  bore  henceforth  upon  her  heart  the 
impress  of  Goethe's  young  love.  This  may  justly  be 
termed,  speaking  scientifically,  a  phenomenon  of  ob- 
session, which  nothing  could  efface;  it  was  beautiful, 
it  was  touching,  but  it  had  its  dangerous  side. 

On  October  21,  1809,  she  wrote  to  Goethe,  in  a 
state  of  melancholy  ecstasy: 

"I  really  believe  that  I  have  inherited  this  feeling 
from  my  mother.  She  must  have  known  (erkannt)  you 
intimately.  She  must  have  possessed  (genossen)  you 
fully  when  I  was  coming  into  the  world.  ..." 

What  was  her  thought?  That  she  was  Goethe's 
daughter  (ffdas  Kind")  ?216  Perhaps.  But  she  certainly 
imagined  that  she  was  the  child  of  his  lov e,  and  that 
this  love  returning  from  beyond  the  grave  to  Goethe 
the  beloved,  to  Goethe  the  lover — had  taken  upon 
itself  her  bodily  presence. 

This  love-stricken  folly  found  forthwith  the  environ- 
ment in  which  it  could  best  thrive.  In  the  same  month 
in  which  she  discovered  the  correspondence  she  has- 
tened to  Goethe's  mother,  Aja,  who,  when  she  spoke 

=  165 

of  her  "little  boy,"  was  as  exaggeratedly  sensitive  as 
Bettina.  She  declated  that  she  was  cmelly  sepatated 
ftom  him  by  the  distance  ftom  Ftankfutt  to  Weimat — 
aaually  only  a  few  houts — but  to  her  an  eternity.  .  .  . 
The  two  love-stricken  women,  the  old  and  the  young, 
both  full  of  fantastic  ideas,  both  warm-hearted,  found 
in  the  love  of  their  common  idol  the  path  to  each 
other's  affection. 

The  old  woman  poured  into  the  girl's  ear  a  never- 
ending  stream  of  gossip,  her  triumphant  recollections 
of  the  child  Goethe,  which  Bettina  drank  in  like 
parched  soil  under  a  shower.  We  can  imagine  how,  in 
such  circumstances,  the  obsession  took  root  and 

In  the  following  spring  she  paid  her  first  visit  to 
Goethe  (April  23,  1807).  ...  In  those  days  travel 
was  no  easy  matter;  war  was  raging  throughout  the 
country.  In  order  to  accompany  her  brother-in-law, 
Jordis,  from  Cassel  to  Berlin,  whence  they  proceeded 
later  to  Weimar,  she  and  her  sister  had  donned 
men's  clothes.  It  reminds  us  of  a  scene  from  As  You 
Like  It.  Finally  Bettina  arrived  alone,  her  heart 
beating  violently,  almost  fainting  with  emotion,  at 
Goethe's  door.  She  had  a  letter  of  introduction  from 
Wieland,  who  presented  her  as  the  daughter  and 
granddaughter  of  beloved  friends  who  were  no  more. 

166  = 

Shall  I  describe  this  well-known  meeting  once  again? 
It  has  been  told  so  well  by  Fritz  Bergmann,  who,  after 
a  careful  scrutiny  of  the  somewhat  embellished  account 
of  the  incident  which  Bettina  gave  later,  has  verified 
the  essential  points,  and  has  with  delicacy  expressed  her 
emotion.  Both  the  old  man  and  the  young  woman 
shared  it.  For  him,  what  a  flood  of  remembrances:  it 
was  indeed  the  beloved  dead  who  came  to  see  him. 
.  .  .  For  her,  what  a  mingled  torrent  of  joy  and  fear: 
she  stood  tongue-tied,  at  one  moment  overcome,  at 
another  peacefully  content.  There  followed  a  strange 
reaction,  at  which  some  have  foolishly  sneered,  though 
it  was  the  most  natural  in  the  world;  exhausted  with 
emotion,  the  young  girl  lost  consciousness  and  fell 
asleep  on  Goethe's  knees,  in  his  arms.217  The  fainting 
fit  lasted  but  a  few  moments.  Goethe  was  very  kind 
to  her.  He  was  deeply  touched  by  the  elemental  force 
of  emotion  in  his  "little  Mignon."  He  spoke  to  her 
affectionately,  and  at  length,  dismissing  impatiently  the 
inquisitive  Christiana  who  had  opened  the  door  and 
asked  him  to  go  out  with  her.  With  the  sweet  mes- 
senger from  the  past,  he  reviewed  the  days  of  his 
boyhood,  felt  his  youth  reawaken  in  the  cramped  at- 
mosphere of  Weimar,  and  with  a  symbolic  gesture, 
full  of  significance  for  the  young  dreamer  who  doubt- 

=  167 
less  saw  in  it  a  token  of  mystic  betrothal,  he  placed 
a  ring  upon  her  finger.218 

Later  Goethe  appreciated  the  danger.  When  the 
young  enthusiast  poured  out  in  a  letter  to  Goethe's 
mother  the  longings  of  her  heart — the  mother  did  her 
best  to  fan  the  flame — 21*  and  when  the  old  lady  had 
sent  him  an  account  of  the  ardent  feeling  which  he  had 
aroused  in  Bettina,  Goethe  knitted  his  brows  and  with- 
drew in  stubborn  silence.  To  Bettina's  first  letters  there 
was  no  single  word  of  reply. 

So  Bettina  went  to  seek  the  answer  which  she  could 
not  otherwise  obtain.  She  returned  to  Weimar,  at  the 
beginning  of  November,  1807,  this  time  accompanied 
by  a  throng  of  relatives — Clemens,  Arnim,  her  sister 
Gunda,  and  her  brother-in-law  Savigny.  She  stayed  in 
Weimar  for  ten  days,  seeing  Goethe  almost  every  day, 
and  Goethe  began  to  enjoy  her  company.  Bettina  no- 
ticed this  and  showed  herself  at  her  best;  with  her 
naive  and  spring-like  charm  she  elicited  friendly 
smiles;  she  was  original  and  alluring  and  gave  free  rein 
to  the  impulses  of  her  spontaneous  fancy.  During  these 
familiar  talks,  these  walks  on  Goethe's  arm,  their  in- 
timacy had  made  such  progress  that  when  she  wrote  to 
him  again,  some  weeks  later,  she  used  the  familiar 
"thou,"  and  henceforth  continued  to  do  so.220 

Goethe,  however,  was  still  on  the  defensive;  another 

168  == 

year  passed  before  he,  too,  wrote  "thou."221  But  his 
"you"  was  only  a  weak  defence,  and  Bettina  knew  it. 
When,  on  November  10th,  they  parted,  Goethe  kissed 
her,222  and  soon  did  more  for  her  than  use  the  intimate 
"thou"  in  his  letters.  When  she  wrote  him  letters, 
aflame  with  love,  he  sent  her  back  her  own  words  like 
jewels  in  the  magnificent  setting  of  two  sonnets.  It 
was  as  if  he  entered  into  Bettina's  deepest  self,  till  both 
merged  into  one.  We  know  what  artists  are,  how 
mighty  a  force  for  deception  lies  in  their  impression- 
able nature;  it  is  their  peculiar  failing,  and  we  are  not 
the  dupes  of  their  florid  declarations.  But  how  different 
must  have  been  the  impression  upon  Bettina.  ...  In 
February,  1808,  she  told  Goethe  that  never  before  had 
she  looked  upon  a  man,223  and  that  it  hurt  her  to  think 
that  all  her  youth  was  being  wasted.  .  .  .  "But  now 
I  have  you.  .  .  ." 

She  was  intelligent  enough  not  to  confine  her  letters 
to  love;  she  dealt  with  poetry  also;  she  wrote  of  Eg- 
mont,  which  she  appreciated  and  discussed  in  striking 
fashion,  and  a  little  later  of  "Wahlverwandtschaften" 
("Elective  affinities"). 

Her  delight  in  Goethe's  art  was  like  the  primitive 
delight  of  a  child  bathing  in  the  sea.  She  discussed 
music  with  him  and  showed  a  virile  taste  for  Cheru- 
bini's  Medea  and  for  Gluck's  1  phi  genie  auf  Tauris; 

=  169 

following  the  wise  promptings  of  heart  and  mind,  she 
constituted  herself  the  provider  of  music  for  Goethe's 
private  choir;  she  sent  him  curious  documents  and  suc- 
ceeded more  than  any  other  woman  of  his  circle  in 
appealing  to  his  intellect.224 

After  the  death  of  Goethe's  mother,  Aja  (September 
13,  1808) ,  the  poet's  letters  to  Bettina  show  a  far  more 
affectionate  tone.  Now  that  his  mother  had  gone, 
Bettina  was  the  only  one  who  knew  the  essential  de- 
tails of  his  younger  days  which  Goethe  himself  had 
forgotten.  She  was  the  sole  keeper  of  all  those  precious 
memories  which  she  had  gathered  from  the  lips  of  his 
own  mother.  He  wrote  to  her  a  year  later:225  "Your 
letters  give  me  great  pleasure:  they  remind  me  of  the 
time  when  I  was  perhaps  as  foolish  as  you  but  certainly 
happier  and  better  than  today." 

His  smile  could  scarcely  hide  a  feeling  of  regret  and 
of  melancholy.  The  months  which  followed  showed 
that  his  affection  increased.  Goethe  could  resist  no 
longer.226  So  much  so,  that  when  Bettina  interrupted 
her  correspondence  for  a  few  weeks,  Goethe  felt  her 
silence  very  keenly,  and  wrote  to  her  on  May  10,  1810: 
"Dear  Bettina,  I  have  not  heard  from  you  for  a  very 
long  time;227 1  cannot  leave  for  Karlsbad  without  send- 
ing you  greetings,  without  calling  upon  you — by  letter 
— and  without  receiving  from  you  a  sign  of  life.  Your 

170  = 

letters  accompany  me.  When  I  am  there,  they  must 
replace  your  charming  presence.  ..."  (We  feel  that 
Goethe  is  here  restraining  his  feelings.)  "I  can  say  no 
more,  for  in  truth  there  is  nothing  I  can  give  you;  it  is 
either  you  who  give  everything  or  you  who  take  every- 
thing. .  .  ." 

During  the  following  summer  months  Bettina  met 
Beethoven,  and  brimming  over  with  the  impression 
which  he  had  made  upon  her,  went  to  see  Goethe  in 
Teplitz  and  remained  with  him  for  three  days,  from 
August  9  to  12,  1810. 

What  happened  during  those  three  days?  The  un- 
usual warmth  of  Goethe's  letter,  written  to  Bettina 
immediately  after  her  visit,  suggests  that  she  had  never 
been  more  favoured  by  her  idol.  I  have  shown  this  in 
my  first  essay,  but  there  were  many  gaps  in  my  story. 
Bettina's  long  letter  of  July  6-28,  1810,  stopped  sud- 
denly in  the  middle  of  a  sentence  in  which  she  spoke 
of  Beethoven.  From  July  28th  to  October  18th  there 
was  a  lull  in  the  correspondence  which  is  all  the  more 
difficult  to  understand,  as  Goethe  in  his  short  letter, 
written  on  August  17th,  five  days  after  Bettina's  de- 
parture from  Teplitz,  spoke  with  unusual  enthusiasm 
of  the  many  pages  (Blatter)228  which  Bettina  had  left 
him,  and  which  he  "read  over  and  over  again";  he 
spoke  also  of  one  which  had  just  arrived.  .  .  .  What 

=  171 
did  he  do  with  them,  what  did  they  contain,  these  let- 
ters which  Bettina  did  not  find  in  the  collection  which 
Councillor  von  Muller  sent  her  after  Goethe's  death, 
in  August,  1832?  What  is  perhaps  even  more  ex- 
traordinary is  that  Bettina,  the  last  person  to  disguise 
her  feelings — she  would  much  rather  have  exaggerated 
them — did  not  rewrite  them.  She  never  wished  to  dis- 
turb the  dust  of  those  recollections. 

Here,  however,  are  a  few  grains  from  the  heap,  dis- 
covered last  year,  among  the  drafts  of  Bettina's  letters 
which  were  sold  under  the  hammer  and  which  have 
not  been  mentioned  in  any  of  the  books  on  her: 

"The  twilight  of  evening  was  falling,  this  hot 
August  day.  .  .  .  He  was  sitting  at  the  open  window, 
while  I  stood  before  him,  my  arms  round  his  neck,  my 
eyes  piercing  his  to  their  depths,  like  an  arrow.  Perhaps 
he  could  withstand  my  gaze  no  longer,  for,  to  break 
the  silence,  he  asked  me  whether  I  felt  hot  and  whether 
I  would  not  like  to  be  cooler?  ...  I  nodded  assent. 
He  went  on,  'Why  not  open  your  breast  (Mach  doch 
den  Busen  frei)  to  the  evening  breeze?'  As  I  did  not 
object,  although  I  blushed,  he  undid  my  bodice,  looked 
at  me,  and  said:  'The  glow  of  the  sunset  has  reddened 
(eingebrannt)  your  cheeks.'  He  kissed  my  breast  and 
rested  his  head  on  it.  'No  wonder,'  said  I,  'for  my  sun 
is  sinking  to  rest  upon  my  bosom.'  He  gazed  at  me  for 

172  ^= 

a  long  time  and  we  were  both  silent.  He  then  asked, 
'Has  anyone  ever  touched  your  breast?'  'No,'  I  replied; 
'it  is  so  strange  that  you  should  touch  me  thus.'  Then 
he  showered  kisses  on  me,  many,  many,  violent  kisses. 
.  .  .  I  was  frightened.  .  .  .  He  should  have  let  me  go; 
and  yet  it  was  so  strangely  beautiful.  In  spite  of  myself 
I  smiled,  yet  feared  that  this  happiness  should  not  last. 
His  burning  lips,  his  stifled  breath — it  was  like  light- 
ning. I  was  in  a  whirl  of  confusion;  my  curly  hair  hung 
in  loose  strands.  .  .  .  Then  he  said,  softly:  'You  are 
like  a  storm;  your  hair  falls  like  rain,  your  lips  dart 
lightning,  your  eyes  thunder.'  'And  you,  like  Zeus,  knit 
your  brows  and  Olympus  trembles.'  'When  you  undress 
at  night,  in  the  future,  and  the  stars  shine  as  now  upon 
your  breasts,  will  you  remember  my  kisses?'  'Yes.' 
'And  will  you  remember  that  I  should  like  to  cover 
your  bosom  with  as  many  kisses  as  there  are  stars  in 
heaven?'  .  .  .  The  memory  of  it  tears  me  asunder 
(zerreist  mich  von  alien  Sett  en),  I  long  to  dissolve  in 
tears  like  a  cloudy  sky. — Never  repeat  what  I  confide 
to  you  this  lonely  night.  I  have  never  told  it  to  anyone 
before.  .  .  !"229 

These  ashes  which  we  have  just  stirred  still  burn! 
What  a  glow  do  their  embers  throw  on  a  letter  which 
Goethe  wrote  some  days  later.  What  a  light  is  shed  on 
those  written  during  the  winter  1810-11,  which  still 

=  173 
exist,  apart  from  the  letters  from  Bettina  which  were 
destroyed  and  to  which  Goethe  refers. 

"Bettina,  dearest  of  all!  (allerliebste)  Your  letters 
are  such  that  the  latest  seems  always  the  most  fascinat- 
ing! Thus  it  was  with  the  pages  which  you  brought  me, 
and  which  I  read  hungrily,  again  and  again,  on  the 
morning  you  left  me.  But  now  comes  your  last  letter 
which  surpasses  (ubertrifft)  all  the  others.  If  you  can 
go  on  surpassing  yourself  (iiberbieten) ,  do  it!  With 
yourself  you  have  taken  away  so  much,  that  it  is  only 
fair  that  you  should  send  me  back  something.  ..." 

To  this  letter  he  pinned  a  note  asking  her  to  send  her 
reply  not  to  Teplitz,  nor  to  Weimar,  but  to  Dresden,  in 
care  of  a  third  person,  and  he  added,  "Oh  dear,  what 
will  your  letter  tell  me?  .  .  ." 

We,  too,  should  like  to  know.  What  did  this  letter 
contain,  and  those  which  followed,  for  more  than  one 
was  written  before  October.  During  that  month  the 
correspondence  which  was  saved  from  destruction  be- 
gan again  with  a  letter  from  Goethe,  who  had  returned 
to  Weimar  on  October  25th,  in  which  he  says  that  he 
should  have  thanked  Bettina  long  ago  "for  the  dear 
letters  which  reached  me  in  due  course  (nach  und 
nach),  and  particularly  for  remembering  the  27th  of 
August  so  kindly.  .  .  ."  It  is  lost  to  us,  like  all  the  rest, 
this  souvenir  of  August  27th.  All  we  know  is  that 

174  ^^ 

Goethe  did  not  reply  to  the  letters  after  his  note  of 
August  17th.  He  had  set  a  gulf  between  this  memory 
and  himself.  And  now,  instead  of  reverting  to  the  past, 
we  see  the  path  into  which  he  would  direct  Bettina's 
ardent  sensibility;  he  took  advantage  of  her  frame  of 
mind — he  well  knew  how  to  handle  loving  hearts — to 
ask  her  to  tell  him  all  the  interesting  secrets  which  his 
mother,  Aja,  had  confided  to  her,  all  those  stories  of 
his  youth  which  he  remembered  no  longer.  He  was 
rather  troubled  about  them;  who  knows  what  Juliet's 
nurse  told  Romeo  of  her  nursling?  ...  It  was  a  great 
sacrifice  which  he  asked  of  Bettina,  for  these  stories 
were  her  personal  treasure,  to  which  no  one  else  had 
access.  How  deeply  Bettina  must  have  loved  him  to  do 
what  he  asked;  we  feel  what  it  must  have  meant  to  her. 
Goethe,  however,  could  not  have  chosen  a  more  fa- 
vourable moment  to  secure  this  sacrifice  from  her.230 

She  complied  with  his  wish.  But  she  was  not  alto- 
gether unaware  of  his  motive,  as  is  shown  by  her  reply 
of  November  4th: 

"You  have  always  some  good  reason  for  writing  to 
me.  But  my  heart  retains  nothing  of  your  letter  except 
the  last  words,  'love  me  until  we  meet  again'  {Liebe 
mich  bis  zum  Wiedersehen\)  If  you  had  not  added 
these  last  words,  I  should  perhaps  have  taken  more 
careful  note  of  the  motive  prompting  the   request 

=  175 
which  preceded  them;  but  this  single  proof  of  affection 
has  defeated  me.  ...  A  thousand  tender  thoughts 
have  held  me  captive  last  night,  and  all  today.  And 
now  I  realize  that  what  you  demand  (verlangst)  is  so 
precious  to  me  that  I  find  it  worthy  of  your  accept- 

Thereupon  she  threw  open  the  sanctuary  of  her 
recollections.  Is  it  not  as  if,  in  giving  them  to  him,  she 
gave  herself  again?  She  expresses  a  great  deal  in  the 
following  words,  which  sound  so  profoundly  sincere: 

"Ich  bin  ein  duf tender  Garten  dieser  Erinnerungen" 
("I  am  a  fragrant  garden  wherein  these  reflections 

She  threw  them  to  him  by  the  armful,  these  flowers 
of  the  past,  which  he  planted  afresh  in  his  Dichtung 
und  Wabrheit. 

From  this  moment,  however,  I  find  a  new  tone  in 
Bettina's  letters.  There  is  disturbance,  sorrow,  a  passion 
imperious  and  burdensome;  there  are  spiteful  fits  in 
which  she  inveighs  against  Goethe's  friends  and  par- 
ticularly against  his  "house  god,"  Zelter.  There  are, 
indeed,  many  heavy  clouds  in  her  sky. 

"Since  we  were  together  in  Teplitz  I  find  it  im- 
possible to  pay  you  compliments."231 

"...  Once  I  climbed  a  mountain  top.  .  .  .  What 
is  it  that  weighs  so  heavily  on  my  heart?  .  .  ." 

176  ^= 

Goethe  remained  impervious  to  the  allusions  in  these 
letters,  their  cries  of  passion,  their  attacks  on  Zelter;  he 
was  deaf  to  the  passionate  dreamer  with  her  strange 
soliloquies  on  music,  thoughts  like  lightning  flashes  in 
the  darkness  of  the  night.  .  .  .  He  took  good  care  not 
to  upset  her.  He  did  not  waste  his  time:  he  gathered 
all  these  priceless  recollections  which  she  had  in- 
herited from  his  mother.  It  was  Bettina  who  gave,  gave 
without  end.  .  .  . 

But  was  he,  too,  not  giving,  giving  in  even  a  larger 
measure  than  she?  He  was  her  love!  He  was  her  life! 
Was  it  not  she  who  wrote:  "If  you  only  knew  how 
often  a  single  word  of  yours  delivers  me  from  the 
horrors  of  a  crushing  dream.  Oh,  tell  me:  'Yes,  child, 
I  am  within  you'!  Then  all  is  well Tell  me! 


When  Goethe  needed  Bettina  no  longer  he  grew 
tired  of  her.  No  doubt  he  would.  It  is  no  easy  matter 
to  feel  that  one  is  so  indispensable  to  another!  Did  not 
Bettina's  hungry  heart  ask  that  Goethe  should  be 
"within  her,"  should  belong  to  her?233  Such  a  man  as 
Goethe  could  belong  only  to  those  who  assumed  no 
proprietary  rights  over  his  freedom.  That  is  why  he 
preferred  his  fat,  amiable  Christiana  to  Bettina  with 
the  exigencies  of  her  love. 

Besides  this,  there  was  a  deep  misunderstanding 


=  177 

between  them.  The  Goethe  whom  Bettina  loved  was 
not  the  Goethe  of  her  time.  The  one  she  loved  was  the 
Goethe  of -her  mother,  of  the  days  of  the  first  Wilhelm 
Meister.  .  .  .  Where  are  the  snows — where  is  the  fire 
— of  yesteryear? 

Eckermann,  asked  by  Moritz  Carriere  what  Goethe's 
relations  were  with  Bettina,  replied:  "She  always  loved 
him,  but  she  was  often  a  nuisance;  she  asked  the  old 
man  to  undertake  what  he  had  done  long  ago,  as  a 
young  man.  She  would  tell  him:  'Art  and  antiquity, 
what's  that?  {Was  Kunst  und  Altertum?)  You  must 
write  a  Gotz  von  Berlichtngen\  that's  better!'  And  he 
would  reply:  T  have  written  it.  To  each  thing  its 
proper  time.'  "234 

I  shall  not  refer  again  to  the  fatal  rupture,  which 
Goethe  had  determined  upon  and  which  took  place 
between  him  and  Bettina  in  1811,  in  spite  of  her  efforts 
to  renew  her  relations  with  him.  Christiana  provided 
the  occasion,  but  even  without  Christiana  the  break 
would  have  occurred.  In  vain  did  Bettina  write  to 
Goethe  again  in  1817.  He  did  not  answer,  and  her 
attempts  to  enter  his  house  by  surprise  only  irritated 
him  the  more. 

Finally,  however,  he  could  not  but  be  moved  by  the 
unwavering  loyalty  of  the  friend  whom  he  had  re- 
buffed. It  was  particularly  her  scheme  for  a  monument 

178  = 

to  him  in  Frankfurt235  which  softened  his  heart  and 
showed  his  human  weakness.  He  decided  that  he 
would  let  her  know  how  much  he  was  touched.  .  .  . 

It  was  a  supreme  consolation  decreed  by  fate! 
Twelve  days  before  his  death,  on  March  10,  1832,  a 
young  messenger  from  Bettina  came  to  see  him,  Sieg- 
mund  von  Arnim,  her  second  son,  who  was  then 
eighteen.  The  mother's  letter  said,  "Embrace  me  anew 
in  this  child"  C'Umfasse  mich  neu  In  dies  em  Kinde"). 
Goethe  was  kind  and  fatherly.  He  invited  him  to  his 
table  and  saw  him  daily,  until  he  was  stricken  by  the 
illness  from  which  he  never  recovered.  Mignon's  son 
was  his  last  visitor,  and  the  lines  which  he  wrote  in 
Siegmund's  album  were  Goethe's  farewell  to  the 
world.236  When  the  young  man  left  him,  Goethe  was 
already  ailing,  and  on  his  arrival  in  Frankfurt  he  heard 
of  his  death.  We  still  have  the  letter  which  he  wrote 
from  there  to  his  mother.  Bettina  was  anxious  to  know 
if  Goethe  remembered  her,  and  what  he  had  said.  His 
son  could  only  tell  her  that  Goethe  had  praised  her 

"It  will  seem  little  to  you,  very  little,  but  not  to  me. 
If  you  had  seen  him,  already  lost  to  this  world,237  but 
turning  the  pages  of  life  as  in  a  book,  you  would  have 
thanked  him  from  your  heart  for  his  friendly  en- 
quiries about  all  that  concerns  you.  .  .  ." 

=  179 

Bettina  learnt  of  his  death  from  a  short  paragraph 
in  a  newspaper  which  she  found  on  the  table,  late  at 
night  when  she  came  back  from  a  reception.  There  the 
news  was  already  known,  but  no  one  dared  to  tell  her. 
We  can  imagine  what  that  night  must  have  been.  But 
we  should  be  wrong  in  assuming  that  this  strong-willed 
woman,  far  stronger  than  we  are  apt  to  think,  was 
plunged  in  a  romantic  grief.  The  blow  which  struck 
her  couid  not  touch  the  Goethe  whom  she  had  created 
for  herself — the  Goethe  whom  she  had  enshrined  in 
her  heart. 

She  could  say,  rather:  "You  can  no  longer  escape 
me!  Now  I  hold  you  for  ever  .  .  ." 

Her  letter  to  Councillor  von  Miiller,  written  at  the 
beginning  of  April,  1832,  is  proof  of  the  nobility  of 
her  love,  which  was  in  truth  stronger  than  death: 

"Goethe's  death  has  indeed  made  upon  me  an  im- 
pression deep  and  ineffaceable,  but  in  no  way  sorrow- 
ful. If  words  fail  me  to  express  the  actual  truth  of  what 
I  feel  I  can  describe  the  glorious  impression  to  you  by 
a  picture.  He  is  risen  from  the  dead,  he  is  transfigured, 
he  beholds  from  Heaven  his  friends  whose  souls,  to 
their  last  breath,  are  fed  by  him.  ...  1  am  one  of 
those  who  have  no  life  except  in  him!  I  do  not  speak 
of  him,  I  speak  to  him,  and  his  replies  are  my  fullest 
consolation.    He    leaves    no    question   of   mine    un- 

180  ^= 

answered,  no  tender  word  or  prayer  without  response. 
How  could  I  be  other  than  happy  in  the  thought  that 
at  last  he  has  attained  that  eternal  bliss  for  which  his 
whole  earthly  life  had  been  a  preparation?  And  now, 
here  lies  the  path  of  my  duty:  I  must  cling  so  close 
to  him  that  nothing  may  assume  a  stronger  claim  than 
his.  By  his  side  everything  that  life  may  bring  me 
henceforth  shall  but  strengthen  my  communion  with 
him.  Thus  shall  all  that  is  worthy  of  survival  in  my 
earthly  existence  bear  testimony  to  my  love  and  to  his 

She  kept  her  word.  And  if  the  remainder  of  her  life 
was  not  free  from  weaknesses — and  why  should  it 
have  been?  She  was  essentially  a  woman,  and  that  is 
why  we  love  her — it  remained  under  the  aegis  of  the 
two  gods  to  whom  from  the  cradle  her  life  had  been 
dedicated,  Love  and  Dreams,  "Traum  und  Liebe."  .  .  . 
These  words  would  be  a  fitting  title  to  her  famous 
correspondence  published  in  1835,  Goethes  Briej- 
wechsel  mit  einem  Kmde,  in  which,  revising  her 
original  letters,  she  pours  forth  the  flood  of  that  inner 
consciousness  which  memory  had  released.  Can  we 
blame  her?  History,  which  since  then  has  inquired  into 
what  she  said,  has  sifted  the  dream  from  the  reality.238 
But  history  must,  in  the  end,  testify  to  the  loyalty  of 
her  heart.  And  if  a  heart  so  loving  has  led  her  some- 

=  181 

times  to  embroider  dreams  on  the  background  of  her 
story,  she  has  never  knowingly  altered  the  design.  Her 
love  and  her  person  were  always  allied  with  legend 
and  whatever  she  touched  became  legendary.  Yet  she 
was  real.  And  if,  sometimes,  her  opinion  of  others  de- 
ceived her,  she  has  never  deceived  others,  or  herself, 
about  her  own  nature. 

This  inner  life  of  Bettina  has  by  no  means  received 
the  attention  which  it  deserves.  Enquiry  has  been 
focussed  almost  exclusively  on  her  relations  with 
Goethe.  But  no  matter  how  intense  this  love  may  have 
been,  we  must  not  think  that  Bettina  had  no  existence 
outside  it.  It  is  true  that  her  whole  outlook  was 
illuminated  by  the  burning  flame  of  remembrance;  but 
its  boundaries  extend  far  beyond  Goethe's  life  and 
even  beyond  his  thoughts. 

The  abundant  harvest  of  Bettina's  literary  activity 
has  been  studied  in  part.  Without  referring  to  it 
further  here,  there  is  much  to  be  said  of  her  ideas  in 
music,239  of  her  voluminous  correspondence  with  the 
famous  men  of  her  day,  Alexander  von  Humboldt, 
Jacob  and  Wilhelm  Grimm,  Schleiermacher,  Em- 
manuel Arago,  Moritz  Carri£re,  Peter  Cornelius,  Em- 

182  ^= 

manuel  Geibel,  Friedrich  Christoph  Foerster,  and 
others.  Lastly  there  is  her  political  activity. 

Fortunate  circumstances  and  the  authority  which 
she  had  gained  secured  her  direct  access  to  those  in 
highest  authority,  the  princes240  and  the  king  of  Prus- 
sia, and  her  courage  did  not  fail  her.  Neither  respect 
for  their  exalted  position  nor  fear  of  displeasing  them 
restrained  her.  She  spoke  openly  and  forcibly.  She  had 
decided  for  herself  upon  the  ideal  of  what  a  prince 
should  be — the  servant  of  the  community — and  this 
ideal  she  meant  to  impress  upon  them.  "Everything 
belongs  to  the  people,"  she  wrote  to  the  Kronprinz  of 
Wiirtemberg.  "Let  the  prince  go  lacking,  but  the  peo- 
ple must  be  free  from  want."  The  princes  were  both 
flattered  and  intimidated  by  the  onslaught  of  this 
Deborah,  the  anointed  of  Goethe.  They  dared  not  pro- 
test too  much.  The  year  1848  was  coming,  and  its  spirit 
was  already  weakening  the  sovereign  power.  This 
power  was  to  return,  with  a  vengeance,  later  on. 

Bettina  had  a  splendid  colleague  in  Berlin,  Alex- 
ander von  Humboldt,  the  last  survivor,  with  her,  of 
Goethe's  great  brotherhood.  He  helped  her  with  all  his 
energy  and  defended  her  books  against  the  censor,241 
for  whom  both  had  a  feeling  of  utter  contempt  and 
hatred;242  he  supported  her  projects  and  brought  her 
letters  to  the  notice  of  the  king,  who  was  spared  the 

=  183 

criticism  of  neither  of  them.  Acting  together,  they  were 
a  real  power,  and  King  Frederick  William  IV  had 
reason  to  fear  their  opinions.  Certain  interesting  and 
unpublished  documents  which  have  been  communi- 
cated to  me  by  a  granddaughter  of  Bettina,  Madame 
Irene  Forbes-Mosse,  describe  Bettina  as  a  Portia  plead- 
ing unceasingly  the  cause  of  the  victims  of  the  social 
order.  "At  a  time  when  there  was  no  Landtag  (state 
Parliament)  in  Prussia,  nor  freedom  of  the  press  to 
ventilate  wrongs,  it  was  Bettina  who  brought  them  all 
before  the  king." 

Among  the  bundles  of  documents  relating  to  such 
cases,  which  passed  under  the  hammer  last  year,  I 
notice  first  the  case  of  the  poet  and  professor,  Hoff- 
mann von  Fallersleben,  who  was  disgraced  and  dis- 
missed from  his  post  on  account  of  his  Unpolhische 
Lieder.  Then  that  of  the  great  manufacturer,  F.  W. 
Schloffel,  the  spokesman  of  the  miserable  Silesian 
weavers,  who  had  been  imprisoned  on  a  charge  of 
communism  and  high  treason.243  Bettina  took  up  his 
cause  and  collected  personally  the  material  for  an  Ar- 
menbuch  (Book  of  the  Poor).  In  1846  she  appears  as 
the  champion  of  the  Polish  revolutionary  Mieroslaw- 
ski,  who  had  been  imprisoned  and  condemned  to 
death;  he  was  pardoned,  thanks  to  her  vehement  inter- 
vention.244 In  1849  it  was  the  case  of  the  revolutionary 

184  = 

Kinkel,  who  was  under  death  sentence.  Bettina  spent 
days  and  nights  defending  him,  writing  letter  after 
letter  to  the  king,  who  replied  to  her  with  equal  in- 
sistence. In  my  collection  are  some  drafts  of  unpub- 
lished letters  by  Bettina  which  are  written  in  her  most 
passionate  style: 

"You  say  that  Kinkel  has  been  prompted  by  evil 
motives.  This  may  be,  but  the  stupidity  of  putting  a 
man  to  death  because  he  is  a  charge  on  society,  and  the 
folly  of  a  law  which  authorizes  such  a  crime,  fills  me 
with  revolt.  .  .  .  What  do  his  faults  matter!  It  is  not 
this  particular  man  who  matters.  What  matters  is  that 
it  should  no  longer  be  possible  for  one  drop  of  a  man's 
blood  to  be  shed  when  that  man  is  in  the  power  of 
the  sovereign." 

It  must  be  admitted  that  the  king  listened  to  the 
arguments  of  the  Angel  of  Revolution  with  a  respect 
and  a  patience  which  are  a  testimony  in  favour  both  of 
himself  and  of  Bettina.  In  1847  he  wrote  to  her,  about 

"You  love  loyalty  and  truth  and  demand  it  in  others; 
you  yourself  are  an  example  of  both.  But  loyalty  and 
truth  do  not  cease  to  be  loyalty  and  truth  even  when 
the  lips  of  a  king  express  them."245 

Bettina,  however,  became  too  outspoken  in  her  fever- 
ish attempts,  and  finally  wounded  the  king's  pride.  A 

E  185 

break  occurred  at  the  end  of  1847.  At  the  same  time  she 
was  engaged  in  a  struggle  with  the  Municipality  of 
Berlin,  was  accused  of  lese-majeste  and  sentenced  to 
two  months'  imprisonment. 

"You  condemn,"  she  wrote  to  Pauline  Steinhauser, 
"my  political  tendencies.  I  have  never  undertaken  any- 
thing, unless  my  inner  self  compelled  me  to  it  (ich 
habe  nie  etwas  unternommen  was  nicht  ein  Muss  in  mir 
gewesen  ware).  Nor  have  my  actions  proved  without 
benefit  to  humanity.  There  are  many  whose  heads  are 
still  on  their  shoulders,  who  would  have  lost  them  if  I 
had  not  fought  desperately."246 

She  gave  her  support  to  the  risings  of  1848,  as  did 
another  friend  of  Beethoven  and  Goethe,  Wilhelmine 
Schroeter-Devrient.  In  her  letters  Bettina  lashed  the 
treacherous  behaviour  of  the  king  and  praised  the  peo- 
ple. But  calumny  and  hatred  accumulated  forces  against 
her.  In  April,  1848,  she  wrote  to  Pauline  Steinhauser: 

"Believe  me  if  they  could  have  thrown  me  into  the 
ditch  it  would  have  been  done."247 

She  never  flinched  from  her  task:  she  remained  in- 
domitable, facing  her  foes,  even  after  the  ruin  of  her 
hopes  for  democracy.  She  was  "Freiheitsbegeisterte" 
("intoxicated  with  ideas  of  freedom")  to  the  end  of 
her  days.248  Such  was  her  prestige,  such  was  the  gla- 
mour which  she  owed  to  Goethe,  her  master,  that  after 

186  ^= 

1848  the  King  of  Prussia  and  the  princes,  in  spite  of 
their  bitter  feelings,  treated  her  with  the  highest  con- 
sideration and  interested  themselves,  1851-52,  in  the 
realization  of  her  project  of  a  monument  to  Goethe  at 
Weimar.  But  the  proud  Bettina  declined  the  royal  offer 
to  carry  out  the  work,  saying  that  "Goethe's  monument 
could  only  come  from  the  German  people  {well  Goethe 
nur  in  deutschen  Volk  ein  Denkmal  erhalten 

It  was  the  attitude  of  one  completely  aloof.  In  spite 
of  the  king's  pressing  invitations,  she  never  went  to 
court.250  Her  life  became  more  and  more  retired;  small 
and  frail  in  her  conventual  robe  of  coarse  black  cloth, 
she  meditated  in  her  room,  which  she  never  left  except 
in  the  evening  to  hear  quartet  music  in  her  Pompeian 
hall — Joachim  was  first  violin.  The  idols  of  her  youth, 
Beethoven  and  Goethe,  illuminated  the  evening  of  her 
days.  She  remained  faithful  to  them,  not  as  the  guard- 
ian of  their  graves,  but  as  the  ministrant  to  the  im- 
mortal flame  of  their  lives.  She  had  two  ardent  dis- 
ciples in  her  eldest  daughters,  Armgart  and  Gisela, 
both  artists  like  their  mother;  they  were  painters,  es- 
pecially Gisela,  who  married  Hermann  Grimm;  they 
were  musicians,  Armgart  especially,  whom  Joachim 
admired;  Gisela  also  wrote  for  the  stage.  All  three 

=  187 

were  eager  to  succour  the  downtrodden  and  to  wel- 
come the  champions  of  rebellion.  Mother  and  daugh- 
ters alike  bore  on  their  foreheads  the  trace  of  the  blood 
which  Berlichingen  and  Egmont  shed  for  the  freedom 
of  the  people. 





The  Marseillaise  became  known  throughout  Germany 
almost  as  soon  as  in  France.  It  was  first  sung  in  Sep- 
tember, 1792,  five  months  after  the  War  Hymn  for  the 
Rhine  Army  was  composed  at  Strasbourg  on  the  night 
after  the  news  of  the  declaration  of  war  (April  25, 
1792).  This  was  a  few  weeks  after  the  revolutionaries 
of  Marseilles  had  spread  it  through  Paris  (about 
August  10th).  It  was  sung,  not  during  the  battle  of 
Valmy,  but  a  few  days  after,  on  the  order  of  the 
Minister  for  War,  as  a  Te  Deum  of  solemn  thanksgiv- 
ing. The  heir  to  the  throne  of  Prussia,  who  had  heard 
it  in  the  course  of  the  negotiations  which  resulted  in 
the  retirement  of  the  German  army,  expressed  a  desire 
for  the  music  and  received  one  of  the  copies  sent  from 
Paris  to  Kellermann252  (Comp.  Revue  La  Revolution 
Francaise  November-December,   1918;  an  article  by 


192  = 

Julien  Tiersot  commenting  upon  extracts  from  the  un- 
published memoirs  of  General  Beaufort).  After  Jem- 
mapes,  where  the  Marseillaise  made  its  first  appearance 
on  the  battle-field,  Kotzebue  apostrophized  the  author 
as  follows:  "Brute,  barbarian,  how  many  of  my 
brothers  have  you  not  slain?"  The  saying  seems  to  have 
been  taken  up  and  repeated  by  Klopstock  in  another 
form.  According  to  a  German  tradition,  Klopstock 
visited  Rouget  de  Lisle  in  Hamburg  in  1797,  and  ex- 
pressed his  admiration  of  this  war  song,  the  inspiration 
of  armies.  "You  are  a  terrible  man;  you  have  cut  to 
pieces  50,000  honest  Germans"  (Brockbaus  Konver- 
sations-Lexikon.  9th  and  10th  editions,  1853:  on  the 
words  Marseillaise  and  Rouget  de  Lisle.  N.  B. — The 
editions  of  the  B.  K.  Lexikon  of  the  first  forty  years  of 
the  century  do  not  mention  the  Marseillaise) . 

Goethe  mentions  it  on  three  occasions  in  his  history 
of  the  Siege  of  Mainz.  It  is  remarkable  that  only  once 
in  these  three  passages  does  he  refer  to  the  Marseillaise, 
which  was  performed  by  the  French  garrison  when 
they  left  Mainz,  as  being  a  striking  piece  of  music.  On 
the  other  two  occasions  it  was  played  with  tfCa  ira"  by 
the  oboes  of  the  German  regiments  to  enliven  Goethe's 
guests  "while  they  emptied  bottles  of  champagne."  At 
the  dinner  tables  in  hotels  the  guests  asked  for  it  to  be 
played,  "and  all  those  present  seemed  pleased  and  satis- 

=  193 
fied  with  it."  This  shows  that  the  Germans  generally 
looked  upon  it  as  a  lively  air  and  took  no  notice  of 
the  words. 

A  curious  example  of  this  has  been  pointed  out  to 
me  by  Professor  Max  Friedlaender.  Ever  since  1804, 
part  of  the  melody  of  the  Marseillaise  had  spread 
through  Germany,  becoming  acclimatized  as  a  popular 
song,  which  was  soon  a  great  favourite.  It  had  become 
nothing  more  or  less  than  a  romantic  highwayman's 
song — Rinaldo  Rinaldini,  in  eleven  verses. 


5#m(w.»wu..4tr'U*nKwi— ,*^«-  w-fyfhi**  fa>  ♦ 

*>        — ' — — "  >*■    .  ...#»•      .   c. 

But  it  was  none  other  than  Goethe's  brother-in-law, 
Christian  August  Vulpius,  who  had  introduced  the 
words  of  this  song  into  his  romance  Rinaldo  Rinaldini, 
in  1799.  In  1804  an  unknown  composer  added  the 
melody  which  is  still  sung  by  the  German  people  of 
our  present  day  (Volkslieder  von  der  Mosel  und  der 
Soar.  Halle,  1896,  No.  336,  published  by  Kohler  & 
Meier).   It  is,  however,  very  questionable  whether 

194  ^= 

Goethe,  or  Vulpius  himself,  recognized  the  Marseil- 
laise in  this  new  form.  As  we  have  seen  earlier  in  this 
book,253  it  was  the  minor  passage  in  the  Marseillaise 
which  impressed  it  on  Goethe's  mind,  while  in  the 
popular  song  of  the  brave  highwayman  only  the  major 
tune  was  used. 

The  fine  character  of  the  Marseillaise  was  not  really 
appreciated  by  German  musicians  till  after  1830. 

The  Gallic  cock  under  the  threefold  motto  of  the 
Revolution  aroused  from  sleep  the  national  hymn 
which  had  been  put  aside  or  suppressed  under  the  Em- 
pire and  the  Restoration.254  It  is  known  that  Schumann 
used  the  Marseillaise  three  times:  in  1839,  in  the 
Viennese  Carnival,  in  which  he  concealed  it  under  the 
guise  of  a  3-4  time  handler,  because  the  song  itself 
was  banned  by  Metternich;  in  1840  in  the  famous  song, 
Heine's  Two  Grenadiers  (the  poem  was  set  to  music 
that  same  year  also  by  Wagner,  in  Paris,  with  the  same 
use  of  the  Marseillaise);  in  1851  in  the  overture  to 
Hermann  und  Dorothea. 

How  Beethoven  would  have  been  struck  by  this 
music,  so  closely  akin  to  his!  The  impression  would 
have  been  far  more  powerful  than  in  Schumann's  case. 
It  would  have  floated  like  an  ensign  above  some  mighty 
work  of  his.  Must  he  not  have  heard  it  on  his  journey 
from  Bonn  to  Vienna  in  November,  1792,  when  he 

=  195 

crossed  the  French  lines?  Did  not  the  Marseillaise 
reach  Austria  and  force  an  entry  into  his  deaf  ears  ?  The 
researches  of  Professor  Max  Friedlaender  among  the 
newspapers  and  musical  publications  in  Austria,  dur- 
ing the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century,  have  re- 
vealed nothing.  But  in  any  case  Beethoven  had  had 
relations  in  Vienna  with  great  musicians  who,  like 
Cherubini,  had  played  a  large  part  in  the  orchestral 
and  choral  art  of  the  French  Revolution,  and  it  is  stated 
that  Salieri,  whom  Beethoven  had  known  since  boy- 
hood and  who  was  a  well-known  authority  in  Vienna, 
used  the  Marseillaise  in  one  of  his  works  called  Pal- 
mira, in  1795.  The  question  may  never  be  answered. 
But  I  am  inclined  to  think  that  had  he  known  it,  he 
would  have  spoken  of  it  and  that  one  of  his  composi- 
tions would  have  shown  its  traces. 





Emotion  and  subconscious  impulses,  which  in  all  arts 
and  sciences  are  the  source  of  the  supernatural,256  have, 
in  the  case  of  music,  reached  the  highest  point.  This  is 
a  matter  into  which  no  one,  as  it  seems,  would  wish  to 
probe  deeply.  We  always  find,  in  the  background,  the 
mediocrity  of  the  pedants;  it  is  an  annihilating  force.257 
All  of  them  desire  to  express  themselves  by  reasoning 
in  music,  [and  the  quintessence  of  music  is  that 
it  begins  at  the  precise  point  where  reason  ends].258 
These  people,  in  all  good  faith  and  simple-minded- 
ness, believe  that  expression  by  reason  is  possible,  and 
unconsciously  employ  magic  formulas.  In  some  cases 
only  half  of  these  are  used;  in  others  the  end  of  the 
formula  is  used,  before  the  beginning;  so  that,  instead 
of  being  full  of  life  and  brilliance,  as  they  were  once, 
the  compositions  become  fixed,  frozen,  and  unutterably 


200  ^= 

Yet,  in  our  hearts  a  secret  stirring  is  felt;  it  comes 
and  goes,  it  disappears  again,  without  betraying  its 
origin.  Then,  in  a  moment,  genius,  hidden  for  so  long 
in  the  disorder  of  chaos,  growing  and  developing,  step 
by  step,  breaks  forth  in  all  its  splendour.  .  .  .  [Bee- 
thoven]. Such  is  the  condition  of  music  today.  In  this 
art,  genius  is  always  alone,  always  misunderstood,  for 
it  has  sought  its  own  path,  not,  in  the  full  light  of  day, 
but  almost  unconsciously,  almost  without  knowledge  of 

Many  men  must  be  born  before  a  genius  appears. 
And  on  the  other  hand,  genius  must  have  an  active 
and  persistent  influence  on  mankind.259  Otherwise  it 
would  not  be  genius.  Without  a  public  there  would  be 
no  music. 

How  keen  a  delight  it  is  to  see,  as  through  a  crystal 
glass,  into  past  centuries,  and  watch  how  intelligence 
governs  work,  guides  its  accomplishment,  and  gives  im- 
pulse to  the  spirit  of  man.  ...  In  music  that  will 
never  be  again.  The  flame  which  now  burns  no  more 
had  its  own  temple,  and  that  temple  is  in  ruins.  Now 
it  is  not  in  our  intelligence,  but  in  our  hearts,260  in  our 
own  individual  temperament,  that  the  spirit  of  music 
must  be  heard.  But  where  is  the  musician  who  can  keep 
himself  so  innocent,  so  pure  that  he  will  only  feel, 
and  express — what  is  Good  ? 

=  201 

How  strange  is  the  destiny  of  the  language  of  music, 
that  it  should  not  be  understood!  Hence  the  reason  for 
the  furious  outcries  against  everything  that  has  not 
been  heard  before — not  only  because  it  is  not  under- 
stood, but  also  because  it  is  not  even  known.  Man,261 
in  the  presence  of  music,  becomes  rigid  like  a  block  of 
wood.202  What  he  knows  he  is  prepared  to  endure,  not 
because  he  understands  it,  but  because  he  is  used  to  it, 
as  a  donkey  is  used  to  its  daily  load.  Never  yet  have  I 
met  anyone  who  did  not  turn  away  from  music,  weary 
and  depressed,  after  he  had  listened  to  it  for  a  certain 
time.  This  is  a  necessary  consequence  which  it  is  easier 
to  understand  than  the  contrary.  What  else  can  a  man 
do  who  has  vast  ambitions,263  if  he  does  not  first  rid 
himself  of  all  these  mere  artisans  of  music,264  if  he  does 
not  live  his  own  life  with  which  no  other  man  may 
interfere?  .  .  .  He  may  well  "make"  music,  but  he 
will  never  set  the  spirit  free  from  the  letter  and  from 
the  law.  Every  art  claims  that  it  outlives  death  and 
leads  man  to  realms  that  are  not  of  this  earth;  but  there, 
wherever  the  Philistines  mount  guard,  man  stands  in 
his  humiliation  with  the  cropped  head  of  a  slave.  What 
should  be  freedom  of  will,  freedom  of  life,  becomes  a 
mere  piece  of  machinery.205  We  may  wait,  and  believe, 
and  hope — but  nothing  will  happen.  We  cannot  reach 
the  heights  save  by  paths  now  deeply  buried  in  the 

202  ^^ 

sand;  our  salvation  must  be  by  prayer,  by  the  concen- 
tration of  the  heart,  and  by  keeping  our  faith  for  ever 
in  our  God.  Here  we  face  the  inaccessible  peaks,  yet  it 
is  only  upon  their  summit  that  we  may  inhale  with 
rapture  the  breath  of  our  desire.5 




1  It  seems  most  appropriate  to  put  Beethoven's  letter  "To  the 
Immortal  Beloved"  into  the  year  1812  (see  my  article  in  Henry 
Pruniere's  Revue  Muskale,  October  1,  1927). 

2  "To  thank  you  for  the  long  time  I  have  known  you  (for  I 
have  known  you  since  my  childhood's  days)  is  so  little  for  so  great 
a  gift  .  .  ."  (Beethoven's  letter  to  Goethe,  April  12,  1811.) 

3  Conversation  with  Rochlitz,  July,  1822. 

4  In  the  same  year  appeared  the  first  part  of  Faust.  But  Bettina 
had  forestalled  him  in  this  plan.  Ever  since  mid  January,  1808,  she 
was  "submerged"  {vet sunken)  in  Faust  composition.  She  wrote 
Marguerite's  moving  "Prayer  to  the  Virgin."  Beethoven  was  looking 
for  some  one  to  adapt  Faust  for  the  theatre  {Cottasches  Morgen- 
blatt,  October,  1808).  But  he  can  find  no  one  to  help  him.  In 
1822,  when  Rochlitz,  who  knew  nothing  of  the  original  project, 
sends  Beethoven  the  proposal  of  the  Editor  Haertel  that  he  should 
write  the  music  for  Faust,  "Ha!"  cries  Beethoven,  his  arms  on  high. 
"That  would  be  a  task!  That  should  be  something  worth  doing  .  .  ." 
And  he  meditates  upon  it.  But  at  his  age,  he  can  do  no  more;  he  is 
engaged  on  the  work  of  the  two  great  symphonies  and  of  an 
oratorio.  With  regret  he  declines  the  proposal. 

5  The  German  phrase  is  so  rich  in  accumulated  energy  that  in  a 
translation  it  must  be  expanded,  so  that  nothing  may  be  lost. 
"Ausladen  .  .  .  von  .  .  .  nach  .  .  .  hin  .  .  ."  suggest  a  torrential 
discharge,  but  a  discharge  directed  upon  a  mark.  It  is  the  expression 
both  of  the  will  and  of  the  power  of  nature. 

•  It  is  worth  noting  that  Bettina,  who  quotes  these  words,  is 
personally  of  a  very  different  opinion;  she  says  that  music  adds 
nothing  to  Goethe's  Lieder.  Her  account,  therefore,  bears  all  the 
more  the  stamp  of  authenticity. 


206  = 

7  Further  on  in  this  book  will  be  found  a  short  essay  on  her 
psychological  life. 

8  This  refers  to  the  comparison  between  the  authentic  letters, 
which  have  been  discovered  recently,  and  the  edited  letters  which 
Bettina  published  in  1835,  after  the  death  of  Beethoven  and  Goethe 
(Goethes  Briefwechsel  mit  einem  Kinde).  I  mention  particularly 
Dr.  Waldemar  Oehlke's  philological  thesis  Bettina  von  Arnim's 
Briefromane,  1905,  Bettinas  Briefwechsel  mit  Goethe,  compared 
with  the  originals  and  published  in  1922  by  Reinhold  Steig,  and 
Bettinas  Leben  und  Briefwechsel  mit  Goethe,  published  by  Fritz 
Bergemann,  1927. 

9  Let  us  begin  by  establishing  exactly  the  age  and  the  moral  con- 
dition of  our  three  heroes  at  this  epoch  of  1810.  Goethe  was  sixty- 
one.  He  had  at  last  married,  in  October,  1806,  Christiana,  with 
whom  he  had  been  living  for  eighteen  years,  and  whom  he  had 
much  trouble  even  then  to  get  the  society  of  Weimar  to  receive.  His 
son  August  was  seventeen.  Four  years  later  (in  September,  1814)  he 
was  to  meet  Marianna  von  Willemer,  and  a  new  spring  to  blossom 
in  his  heart,  immortalized  in  the  Westostlicher  Divan.  At  the  time 
of  which  we  are  speaking  he  seemed  to  be  enveloped  in  his  distrust 
of  the  new  spirit  of  the  age  and  of  the  younger  generation;  he  was 
engrossed  in  the  official  order  of  things  and  in  the  tenets  of  respecta- 
bility. We  shall  see  this  only  too  well  in  the  pages  which  follow. 

Beethoven  was  forty.  He  was  in  the  prime  of  life,  flaming  with 
passions.  He  had  just  composed  the  "Appassionata,"  the  "Farewell" 
Sonata  (Lebewohl),  The  Harp  Quartet,  the  E.  Flat  Concerto,  and 
was  writing  Egmont.  Bettina  found  him  smarting  from  a  recent  love 
disappointment;  he  was  still  madly  in  love  with  Theresa  Malfatti. 
He  saw  the  foolishness  of  it,  flogging  himself  with  the  whip  of  his 
bitter  irony.  Bettina's  advent  was  to  him  a  deliverance.  Bettina  was 
twenty-five  and  looked  much  younger.  She  was  born  in  Frankfurt  in 
1785,  the  daughter  of  the  beautiful  Maximiliana  La  Roche,  whom 
the  young  Goethe  once  loved,  and  of  the  merchant  Brentano,  who 
was  twenty  years  older  than  her  mother.  The  mother  was  a  Protestant 

=  207 

and  a  native  of  the  Rhine  Provinces;  the  father  was  a  Catholic  and 
of  Italian  origin.  Her  mother  died  when  Bettina  was  eight,  and  her 
father  when  she  was  twelve.  Educated  first  in  a  convent,  and  then 
among  Protestants,  she  had  always  a  mystical  tendency,  without, 
however,  being  able  to  connect  it  with  any  religion.  Her  brilliant 
natural  gifts  of  art  and  poetry  were  tenderly  nursed  by  one  of  her 
brothers,  Clemens;  in  1807  she  formed  a  friendship  with  one  of  her 
brother's  friends,  the  young  nobleman  and  poet  Achim  von  Arnim, 
whom  she  married  in  1811.  But  the  great  event  in  her  life  was  her 
passion  for  Goethe,  which  began  in  1806  (of  this  I  shall  speak- 
later  on).  She  became  the  bosom  friend  of  Goethe's  mother,  and 
through  her  she  succeeded  at  last  in  meeting  Goethe  in  1807.  From 
that  moment  she  belonged  to  him  until  her  death. 

10  Napoleon,  who  met  her  about  the  year  1809,  asked,  "Who  is 
this  fuzzy  young  person  with  fiery  eyes?"  (Draft  of  an  unpublished 
letter  by  Bettina.) 

We  must  not  forget,  as  a  background  to  our  word-picture,  the  god 
of  war  and  his  conflagrations  .  .  .  Jena.  .  .  .  The  year  1809  is 
crimson  with  the  glare  of  blood-stained  skies.  In  August,  1809, 
Bettina  wrote  to  Goethe,  "During  the  whole  summer  the  flames  of 
war  have  reddened  my  horizon." 

11  Alois  Bihler,  a  student  at  the  University  of  Landshut,  was  intro- 
duced into  the  family  circle  of  Professor  de  Savigny,  and  there  met 
Savigny's  sister-in-law,  Bettina.  They  spent  part  of  the  summer  of 
1810  together  at  Bukowan  in  Bohemia,  on  a  property  belonging  to 
the  Brentanos.  Both  were  great  music-lovers.  Bihler  taught  Bettina 
harmony.  The  creative  genius  of  this  woman  filled  him  with  admira- 
tion: "She  improvises  poems  while  singing,  and  she  sings  while 
improvising,  with  a  marvellous  voice"  ("Singend  dichtete  sie  und 
dicbtend  sang  sie  mit  prachtvoller  Stimme").  "A  magnificent  con- 
tralto voice,"  wrote  her  granddaughter,  Mme.  Irene  Forbes-Mosse. 
...  A  month  after  her  meeting  with  Beethoven,  on  the  9th  of 
July,  Bettina  wrote  to  Bihler,  and  this  authentic  letter  is  the  most 
reliable  basis  on  which  we  can  build  the  story  of  this  meeting.  (See 

208  ^^ 

Albert  Leitzmann:  Beethoven  und  Bettina.  Deutsche  Revue,  Febru- 
ary 1918.) 

12  On  December  13,  1809,  Wilhelm  Grimm  was  lunching  at 
Goethe's  house,  and  was  told  by  the  latter  that  he  had  received 
Bettina's  portrait  by  Louis  Grimm  (a  beautiful  picture  which  is  re- 
produced in  Fritz  Bergemann's  book)  ;  he  praised  it  highly  and  ex- 
pressed great  joy.  Wilhelm  Grimm  said  that  Bettina  did  not  think 
the  portrait  very  good.  Goethe  replied,  "Yes,  she  is  a  dear  child! 
Who  could  do  justice  to  her?  If  Lucas  Kranach  were  still  alive,  he 
would  be  equal  to  the  task." 

13  In  Goethes  Briefwechsel  mit  einem  Kinde  (1835). 

14  "  ...  A  magnificent  garden,  full  of  flowers;  all  the  glass 
houses  were  wide  open ;  the  scent  of  the  flowers  was  overwhelming. 
.  .  .  Beethoven  stood  in  the  burning  sunshine,  and  said  ..." 
(May  28). 

"A  bunch  of  lilies  of  the  valley  fills  my  little  room  with  its  elusive 
perfume  .  .  ."    (May  15th). 

And  Beethoven's  letter,  perhaps  not  authentic  (August),  ".  .  .  In 
our  little  observatory,  during  the  splendid  May  rain,  when  I  learned 
to  know  you  ..." 

15  In  her  letter  to  Bihler,  she  wrote  A  Fantasy  .  .  .  No  doubt  it 
was  the  Sonata  quasi  una  fantasia,  op.  27,  no.  2  (The  Moonlight 
Sonata) . 

16  Her  letter  to  Bihler  describes  both  the  house  and  the  host:  "In 
the  first  room,  two  or  three  pianos,  without  legs,  on  the  floor ;  some 
chests,  a  rickety  chair.  In  the  second  room,  his  bed:  a  straw  mattress 
and  a  thin  blanket;  a  wash  basin  on  a  deal  table;  his  nightshirt  is 
thrown  on  the  floor."  Beethoven  kept  her  waiting;  he  was  just 
shaving.  (From  this  we  can  see  that  Bettina  has  embellished  her 
entrance  as  described  in  her  book  published  in  1835,  quoted  above.) 
He  is  small,  dark,  his  face  covered  with  pock  marks,  ugly  but  with 
a  magnificent  forehead — "a  noble  vault,  a  masterpiece!" — very  long 
black  hair  which  he  brushed  back.  Much  younger  than  his  age,  "one 
would  take  him  to  be  not  more  than  thirty" ;  he  says  he  is  thirty-five 

=  209 

and  does  not  remember  when  he  was  born. — Within  a  quarter  of  an 
hour  they  are  intimate  friends. — He  is  sitting  on  the  edge  of  a  chair, 
by  the  piano,  on  which  one  of  his  hands  is  wandering  softly.  Then, 
suddenly,  he  forgets  everything  round  him;  he  is  engulfed  "in  an 
ocean  (Weltmeer)  of  harmony  .  .  ."  This  whole  account  is  of  a 
life-like  precision;  we  can  feel  that  it  was  written  under  the  imme- 
diate impression,  with  perfect  spontaneity. 

17  The  word  "electricity"  recurs  often  in  her  conversation  with 

18  I  have  no  wish  to  repeat  here  this  magnificent  conversation. 
It  requires  separate  study  and  careful  criticism.  It  abounds  in  flashes 
of  genius,  bursting  through  a  cloud  of  mystical  dreams,  flashes 
which  were  generated  in  Bettina  by  that  lonely  visionary  whom  she 
had  interrupted  in  the  midst  of  his  creative  work.  I  shall  limit  my- 
self to  the  undisputed  facts. 

19  "Heute  war  wieder  ubles  Wetter"  ("The  weather  is  bad 
again  today").  Beethoven,  in  his  grumbling  way,  made  this  sarcastic 
remark  to  Schindler,  in  the  letter  in  which  he  broke  off  their  rela- 
tions in  May,  1824. 

20  ".  .  .  In  all  that  concerns  his  art  he  is  so  sincere  and  so  mas- 
terful (herrschend)  that  no  other  artist  dares  go  near  him.  But  in 
the  other  things  of  life  he  is  so  simple  that  people  can  do  with  him 
what  they  like.  They  laugh  at  him  and  his  absent-mindedness;  they 
take  advantage  of  him;  he  rarely  has  enough  money  for  his  bare 
necessities.  His  friends  and  his  brothers  suck  him  dry  (aufzehren) . 
.  .  .  His  clothes  are  torn,  his  appearance  is  always  tattered  (zer- 
lumpt).  And  yet  he  gives  the  impression  of  grandeur  and  majesty 
{Seine  Erscheinung  is  bedeutend  und  herrlich).  In  his  stubbornness 
he  sees  nothing  of  what  is  going  on  around  him.  While  he  is  com- 
posing he  is  deaf  to  the  world  outside,  his  eyes  are  troubled,  he  is 
brimming  with  harmony,  insensible  to  impressions  from  without; 
all  ties  between  him  and  the  rest  of  the  world  are  broken,  he  lives 
in  the  profoundest  solitude.  If  you  speak  to  him  at  some  length, 
and  wait  for  an  answer,  he  suddenly  bursts  into  inarticulate  sounds 

210  ^= 

(er  bricht  plotzlich  in  Tone  aus),  takes  his  paper  and  begins  to 
write.  His  first  step,  when  composing,  is  to  sketch  a  vast  plan,  and 
it  is  on  the  basis  of  this  plan  that  his  work  is  shaped  and  con- 

There  is  no  need  for  me  to  dwell  on  the  interest  of  such  a  de- 
scription, which  has  never  before  been  used  by  Beethoven's  biog- 
raphers. Bettina  expresses  herself  here  with  perfect  sincerity,  and 
without  a  thought  for  the  public,  in  the  first  impulse  of  her  gen- 
erous heart: 

"Why  do  I  write  all  this  to  you,  in  so  much  detail?  Because  I 
know  that  he  is  being  wronged,  because  people  are  too  mean  to 
understand  him,  because  I  feel  that  I  must  describe  him  as  he 
really  is.  .  .  .  He  is  extremely  kind  to  all  who  confide  in  him 
on  musical  matters,  even  to  the  weakest  beginners.  He  is  never  tired 
of  giving  them  advice  and  help,  this  man  who  is  so  jealous  of  his 
freedom.  .  .  ." 

21  Bettina  published  three  letters  which  Beethoven  wrote  to  her: 
they  are  dated  August  11,  1810,  February  10,  1811,  and  July  of 
August,  1812.  The  original  of  the  second  only  has  been  found. 
This  was  fortunate  for  Bettina  because  otherwise  the  critics,  who 
generally  were  ill-disposed  towards  her,  would  have  declared  that 
Beethoven's  friendship  for  her  existed  only  in  her  imagination.  It 
so  happens  that  her  second  letter  is  not  the  least  affectionate  of  the 
three.  As  far  as  I  am  concerned  I  am  not  casting  any  doubt  on  the 
authenticity  of  the  first  letter  which  mentions  intimate  matters  (an 
unhappy  love  affair)  which  Bettina  could  not  have  known  from 
other  sources.  This  letter  is,  besides,  in  typical  Beethoven  style.  As 
for  the  third  letter,  the  question  is  different.  I  shall  speak  of  it 

22  Bettina's  letter  to  Bihler. 

23  So  bricht  er  plotzlich  in  Tone  aus  ("He  suddenly  bursts  into 
sounds").  Bettina's  letter  to  Bihler. 

24  In  my  other  essay  on  Bettina  in  this  book  I  shall  show  how  at 

z  =  211 

a  later  stage  in  her  political  career  she  was  a  heroine  of  justice  and 
the  champion  of  all  die  oppressed. 

25  "J  a,  Dir  moge  ich  alles  sagen;  es  ist  so  viel  und  auch  so  wenig. 
.  .  .  Alle  Wahrheit  ist  dem  Menschen  zu  schwer.  .  .  .  Was  soil 
ich  Dir  sagen?  der  Du  alles  weist — und  weist  wie  wenig  die  Worte 
dem  innern  Sinn  gehorcben,  dass  sie  ihn  wahrhaft  andeuten  mogen 
.  .  ."  ("Yes,  I  would  tell  you  everything;  it  is  so  much  and  yet  so 
little.  .  .  .  All  truth  weighs  so  heavily  on  us  human  beings.  .  .  . 
What  am  I  then  to  tell  you,  who  already  know  all?  You  know  how 
powerless  are  words  to  convey  the  inner  meaning"). 

20  Literally:  "The  whole  world  rises  and  falls  around  him,  as 
.  .  ."  This  enigmatic  and  curiously  worded  sentence  becomes  clear 
through  the  letter  published  in  1835,  in  which  she  enlarged  on 
it:  "Das  ganze  menschliche  Treiben  geht  wie  ein  Uhrwerk  an  ihm 
auf  und  nieder,  er  allein  erzeugt  frei  aus  sich  das  Ungeahnte,  Uner- 
schaffene  .  .  ."  ("Just  as  the  mechanism  of  a  clock  centres  upon 
an  axis,  so  does  every  form  of  human  activity  center  upon  him:  he 
alone  of  himself,  unchecked,  brings  to  birth  what  has  never  before 
existed,  the  unimagined"). 

"He  alone."  ...  It  is  as  if  Bettina,  while  writing  the  sentence 
in  the  original  letter,  felt  instinctively  that  she  could  not  write  it  to 
Goethe  without  offending  him.  So  she  left  it  unfinished. 

27  What  did  Goethe  know  of  Beethoven  in  1810?  It  seems  that 
he  had  heard,  for  the  first  time,  one  of  his  works,  on  October  13, 
1807.  A  young  singer,  Henrietta  Hassler,  of  Erfurt,  who  wanted  to 
become  a  member  of  his  private  choir  (see  my  essay  "Goethe  the 
Musician")  sang  to  Goethe  "a  scene  by  Beethoven."  Probably  this 
was  a  scene  from  Fidelio  the  first  performance  of  which  had  taken 
place  in  November,  1805,  and  the  second,  in  the  revised  form,  in 
April,  1806. 

28  I  have  come  to  the  conclusion  that  Beethoven's  thoughts  ex- 
pressed by  Bettina  are  not  only  far  above  Bettina's  intelligence,  but 
also  far  in  advance  of  the  spirit  of  the  time,  and  that  they  represent 
the  profoundest  intuition  of  his  creative  genius.   They  certainly 

212  = 

emanate  from  Beethoven,  but  the  impression  which  they  made  was 
far  less  clear  in  the  young  Bettina  of  1810  than  they  became  later, 
after  long  reflection,  in  the  Bettina  of  1835.  An  authentic  letter 
from  Bettina  to  Goethe  (Christmas,  1810),  full  of  her  obscure  and 
passionate  thoughts  on  music,  shows  how  her  little  head  (Kopf- 
cheri)  is  constantly  working  since  she  left  Beethoven.  At  the  time 
the  impression  which  she  had  received  was  far  greater  than  her 
perception;  only  very  gradually  did  she  understand  the  fulness  of 
the  treasure  over  which  she  had  brooded  so  long. 

29  January  11,  1811. 

30  Conversation  with  Councillor  von  Muller,  January  26,  1825 
(on  the  subject  of  Bettina). 

31  In  the  Briefwechsel  of  1835  Bettina  imagines  that  Goethe 
writes  an  amiable  answer  to  her  first  letter  on  Beethoven,  and 
praises  her  in  a  fatherly  way  for  what  she  told  him  of  this  great 
man;  he  carefully  avoids  expressing  any  judgment  on  Beethoven, 
but  he  mentions  very  politely  the  hope  that  he  will  meet  him  some 
day.  All  this  is  very  probably  an  exact  reflection  of  what  Goethe 
said,  but  never  wrote,  to  Bettina. 

32  A  hitherto  unpublished  document  (a  draft  of  a  letter  by  Bet- 
tina), which  I  quote  in  the  last  essay  in  this  book,  page  171, 
proves  that  during  these  days  at  Teplitz  this  impression  was  not  only 

33  His  autobiography. 

34  Zelter  had  met  Beethoven  in  Berlin  in  1796;  Beethoven,  then 
twenty-six,  had  given  several  concerts  there,  especially  at  the  Sing- 
akademie,  when  Zelter  had  been  greatly  impressed  by  his  im- 

35  And  at  what  a  fatal  moment!  In  September,  1812,  just  after 
the  regrettable  interview  at  Teplitz  of  which  we  shall  speak  later. 

30  ,fNur  die  Toten  sollen  sie  mir  ruhen  lassen  unci  Beethoven 
.  .  ."  (Authentic  letters  from  Bettina  to  Goethe,  October  16th  and 
November  -1th,  1810.) 


37  In  the  remarkable  letter  of  Christmas,  1810,  which  deserves  a 
special  note.  I  insert  it  as  an  appendix. 

38  This  is  not  a  literal  translation,  but  it  conveys  the  meaning: 
"Ein  recht  beschrankter  Eigensinn"  (An  exceedingly  stupid  stub- 

39  "Wenn  ich  einen  verlorenen  Sohn  hatte,  so  wollte  ich  lieber, 
er  hatte  sich  von  den  Bordellen  bis  zum  Schweinkoben  verirrt,  als 
doss  er  in  den  Narrenwust  dieser  letzten  Tage  sich  verfiige;  denn  ich 
furchte  sehr,  aus  dieser  Holle  ist  keine  Erlosung"  (letter  to  Rein- 
hardt,  quoted  by  Bergemann). 

40  He  had  told  Bettina  in  his  authentic  letter  of  February  10, 
1811,  of  his  intention  to  do  so,  asking  her  to  recommend  him  to 
Goethe.  Bettina  did  so,  and  very  warmly,  though  rather  late,  on  the 
1  lth  of  May,  when  Beethoven  had  already  carried  out  his  intention. 
But  the  dear  girl  was  always  lost  in  her  dreams;  days  and  weeks 
slipped  by  without  her  being  aware  of  it.  Let  us  remember,  too, 
that  just  then  she  married  (March  11th),  and  though  this  event 
was  perhaps  less  important  to  her  than  her  daydreams,  it  must 
surely  have  afforded  her  a  certain  distraction! 

41  The  printing  of  the  score  was,  however,  delayed.  Goethe  re- 
ceived it  only  in  January,  1812.  , 

42  Das  will  alles  umfassen  und  verliert  sich  daruber  immer  in's 
Elementarische,  dock  noch  mit  unendlichen  Schonheiten  im  ein- 

43  "Auf  der  Kippe  stehen,"  a  vernacular  expression  implying  the 
disdain  of  the  wise  man  for  the  child  who  continues  at  play,  un- 
aware of  the  coming  fall. 

44  This  authentic  letter  of  the  11th  of  May,  1811,  is  a  most  valu- 
able example  of  Bettina's  way  of  editing  texts.  She  gives  Goethe 
Beethoven's  message.  She  does  not  attempt  to  transcribe  it  word  for 
word.  She  expresses  exactly  the  meaning  of  the  words,  but  at  the 
same  time  she  tries  to  give  them  the  form  which  would  produce  the 
effect  desired  by  Beethoven;  we  might  say  that  she  transposes  Bee- 
thoven's words  into  the  key  of  Goethe,  and  does  all  she  can  to  win 

214  == 

Goethe  over  to  the  cause  of  Beethoven.  Once  more,  then,  she  shows 
herself  to  be  a  true  and  devoted  friend ;  knowing  Goethe's  weakness 
for  adulation,  she  makes  Beethoven  say  that  he  had  composed  his 
music  to  Egmont,  for  no  other  reason  than  that  he  loved  him 
(Goethe),  loved  him  with  all  his  heart  {die  ich  aus  Liebe,  aus 
meiner  Liebe  zu  ihm  gemacht  habe).  And  she  adds:  "I  will  not 
speak  evil  of  any  man  who  calls  himself  your  friend,  though  some 
do  so  from  interested  motives.  But  Beethoven  is  not  one  of  these; 
his  motives  are  quite  unselfish.  On  him  you  have  bestowed  a  great 
blessing ;  he  has  interpreted  you  with  all  the  might  of  a  free  nature, 
he  is  a  living  witness  of  your  overwhelming  power." 

She  knew  what  she  was  saying,  for  she  had  heard  the  Egmont 
overture  and  raved  over  it:  "Seine  Ouverture  aus  Egmont  ist  so 
herrlich  doss  ich  sie  das  beste  mogte  nennen"  ("His  overture  to 
Egmont  is  so  magnificent  that  I  think  it  is  the  best  music  I  ever 
heard").  I  have  no  doubt  that  her  letter  was  the  determining  cause 
of  Goethe's  cordial  reply  to  Beethoven. 

45  Let  us  add  that  at  Karlsbad  he  met  Prince  Lichnowsky  and 
Prince  Kinsky,  Beethoven's  protectors,  and  only  such  sponsors  could 
persuade  him  to  hold  out  his  hand  to  the  "peasant  from  the 

46  This  can  be  seen  from  the  awkward  way  in  which  he  writes  to 
Beethoven:  His  music  has  been  mentioned  to  him  by  several  peo- 
ple, with  much  praise.  .  .  .  He  has  never  heard  his  music  per- 
formed by  artists  and  by  distinguished  amateurs  without  wishing 
that  he  could  admire  Beethoven  himself  at  the  piano,  and  enjoy 
his  extraordinary  talent.  It  almost  seems  that  he  looks  upon  Bee- 
thoven merely  as  a  virtuoso  of  the  piano.  Yet  the  music  to  Egmont 
had  been  performed  in  Germany  for  over  a  year  (the  first  perform- 
ance was  in  Vienna  on  the  24th  of  May,  1810).  Goethe  knows 
nothing  of  it. 

47  On  January  23rd,  1812,  he  makes  the  following  entry  in  his 
diary:  "Abends,  van  Beethovens  Aiusik  zu  Egmont"  ("In  the 
evening  Beethoven's  music  to  Egmont").  And  on  the  20th  of  Feb- 


ruary:  "In  the  morning  Herr  von  Boyneburg  played  Beethoven's 
composition  to  Egmont.  He  dined  with  us.  After  dinner,  continua- 
tion of  the  music." 

48  This  was  Christiana's  spelling,  as  she  pronounced  the  name. 

4U  Christiana,  in  her  intimate  effusions  to  her  husband,  used  to 
address  him  as  "My  dear  good  Privy  Councillor." 

00  Bettiuas  Leben  und  Briejwechsel  mit  Goethe,  by  Fritz  Berge- 
mann.  1927. 

51  "Zum  Sehen  geboren,  "I  was  born  to  see, 

Zum  Schauen  bestellt  Destined  to  contemplate 

Gefallt  mir  die  Welt.  And  I  like  this  world. 

Ihr  gliicklichen  Augen,  Oh,  ye  happy  eyes, 

Was  je  ihr  geseh'n,  Whatever  you  have  seen, 

Es  sei  wie  es  wolle,  Be  it  what  it  may 

Es  war  doch  so  schon."  It  was  so  beautiful!" 

(Written  in  May,  1831,  when  Goethe  was  in  his  eighty-second 
year. ) 

52  This  was  not  Christiana's  fault.  She  was  always  her  own  simple, 
loyal,  and  outspoken  self.  Her  recently  published  correspondence 
shows  that  she  was  lovable  in  spite  of  her  vulgarity.  Had  she  done 
nothing  but  inspire  Goethe  to  write  Das  Bliimchen,  the  modest  and 
tender  poem  of  1813,  which  he  gave  her  at  their  silver  wedding, 
she  would  still  be  dear  to  Goethe's  real  friends.  While  she  lived 
Goethe  could  rely  on  a  steadfast  affection.  After  she  had  gone  he 
felt  very  lonely,  very  lost,  in  his  domestic  life.  Behind  the  imposing 
facade  of  these  last  years  was  hidden  great  sadness  and  utter  distress. 
His  majestic  mental  balance  was  only  resumed  when  he  turned  to 
his  work,  when  he  made  his  daily  appearance  before  the  world,  when 
he  was  "on  show."  But  how  feeble  he  was  in  his  private  life,  a  weak- 

216  ^= 

ness  of  which  his  lucid  mind  was  fully  aware.  Beethoven,  like  him 
supreme  in  his  art,  was  no  more  master  of  his  life  than  Goethe: 
his  weakness  seemed  even  more  pronounced.  He  was  less  able  to 
disguise  it,  and  his  character  was  more  unbalanced.  Beethoven  was 
made  of  a  tougher  stuff,  but  the  great  man  of  Weimar  was,  after  all, 
not  the  weaker  of  the  two. 

53  Bettina's  first  letter,  in  which  she  revived  the  correspondence, 
was  written  on  the  28th  of  July,  1817,  after  Christiana's  death. 

54  She  was  the  great-granddaughter  of  the  Leonora  d'Este  whom 
Tasso  immortalized. 

55  The  Emperor  Francis,  the  Empress  of  Austria,  the  Empress 
Marie-Louise  of  France,  the  King  of  Saxony,  and  a  bevy  of  dukes 
and  grand  dukes — all  the  illustrious  people  of  Germany  and  Austria. 

56  July  14,  1812.  During  these  days  Beethoven  was  exceptionally 
excited.  It  is  quite  possible  that  he  had  written  the  famous  letter 
To  the  Immortal  Beloved  during  the  preceding  week.  Many  facts 
taken  together  go  to  prove  that  the  passionate  encounter  took  place 
on  the  road  between  Prague  and  Teplitz. 

57  July  17,  1812:  letter  to  little  Emily  M.  of  H.,  who  had  writ- 
ten him  a  complimentary  letter. 

58  Goethe  had  arrived  on  the  14th. 

59  Others  read  the  word  Zusammengeraffter  (literally,  "pulled 
together"),  which  is  even  more  emphatic. 

60  It  is  exceedingly  difficult  to  translate  this,  because  the  words 
are  extraordinarily  comprehensive.  Zusammengefasster,  and  still 
more  Zusammengeraffter,  convey  the  enormous  tension  of  power  to 
concentrate,  while  inniger  describes  "interior"  depths  of  feeling. 
Goethe  adds,  "I  understand  why  he  needs  must  adopt  an  extraor- 
dinary attitude  towards  the  world"  ("Ich  begreife  recht  gut,  wie  er 
gegen  die  Welt  wunderlich  stehen  muss").  This,  too,  is  an  impor- 
tant admission  by  Goethe.  (Letter  to  Christiana  July  19,  1812.) 

81  One  of  them,  from  Bettina  to  Prince  Piickler-Muskau,  of 
1832;  the  other  from  Beethoven  to  Bettina.  They  were  published 
by  her  after  both  Beethoven  and  Goethe  were  dead.  They  seem  to 

=  217 

be  two  similar  versions  of  one  and  the  same  letter,  and  this  has  led 
to  a  controversy,  as  to  which  of  the  two  gave  rise  to  the  other. 
However,  to  us  one  is  as  valuable  as  the  other.  It  has  been  objected 
that  at  the  end  of  Bettina's  letter  she  mentions  that  immediately 
after  the  incidents  which  I  shall  describe  later,  Beethoven  came  "to 
tell  us  all  about  it"  and  that  this  would  have  made  unnecessary 
Beethoven's  description  of  what  happened,  contained  in  his  letter 
to  Bettina,  which  was  sent  the  next  day.  But  "us"  may  mean,  in 
Bettina's  absence,  her  husband,  Arnim,  and  her  sister,  Mme.  de 
Savigny.  And  Beethoven,  who  was  anxious  to  tell  the  story  per- 
sonally to  Bettina,  may  have  written  to  her  on  the  next  day.  It  is 
true  that  Beethoven's  letter  was  addressed  from  Teplitz  in  August, 
1812,  whereas  in  August  he  was  no  longer  in  Teplitz,  but  in  Karls- 
bad or  Franzensbrunn,  and  that  the  quarrel  at  Teplitz  occurred  in 
July.  But  twenty  years  later,  when  Bettina  found  Beethoven's  un- 
dated letter,  she  may  have  added  one  from  memory,  as  she  was 
accustomed  to  do.  The  presence  of  Archduke  Rudolph  during  those 
days,  which  is  mentioned  in  the  letter  ("der  Herzog  Rudolf  hat 
mir  den  Hut  abgezogen") — "the  Archduke  Rudolf  lifted  his  hat  to 
me,"  has  also  been  questioned.  But  here  again  it  is  possible  that 
Bettina  wished  to  complete  Beethoven's  letter,  and  in  good  faith 
filled  in  the  name  which  he  had  left  out.  In  any  case,  it  is  proved 
beyond  all  doubt — it  has  never,  in  fact,  been  contested — that  she 
was  in  Teplitz  at  that  time,  and  that  Beethoven  confided  his  trou- 
ble to  her.  Her  testimony  is  of  the  greatest  importance.  I  may  add 
that  of  the  two  documents,  Bettina's  letter  is  more  complete  and 
tells  us  far  more,  although  Beethoven's  letter  contains  one  of  the 
finest  sayings  that  he  ever  uttered.  It  would  have  required  a  second 
Beethoven  to  invent  it. 

62  Goethe's  diary. 

*3  As  soon  as  the  news  of  the  Arnims'  arrival  in  Teplitz  had  reached 
her  in  Karlsbad,  she  wrote  to  her  husband,  insisting  that  he  should 
not  receive  them.  Goethe,  in  his  reply  of  August  5th,  with  that  do- 
mestic cowardice  common  to  those  who  want  peace  at  home  at  any 

218  ^^ 

price,  calmed  his  jealous  wife  by  referring  to  the  Arnims  in  most 
disrespectful  terms. 

64  It  is  significant  that  Bettina's  arrival  and  Beethoven's  visit  to 
her  coincide  with  the  latter' s  last  meeting  with  Goethe.  After  July 
23  rd  they  never  met  again. 

65  Note  the  contemptuous  meaning  which  Beethoven  gives  the 
word  "romantic." 

66  Beethoven's  letter  to  Bettina  is  couched  in  even  stronger  terms: 
"I  told  Goethe  what  a  great  effect  discriminating  approval  has  upon 
us,  and  how  one  longs  to  be  heard  with  understanding  by  one's 
equal  {doss  man  von  seines  Gleichen  mit  dem  Verstand  angehort 
werden  will).  Emotion  is  fit  for  womenfolk  (forgive  the  words). 
But  man — why,  music  must  strike  sparks  from  his  mind  (Dem 
Mann  muss  Music  Feuer  aus  dem  Geiste  schlagen)." 

We  find  the  same  contempt  for  sentimentality  in  his  first  conver- 
sation with  Bettina  in  May,  1810.  He  thanked  her  for  praising  his 
music  in  terms  which  were  without  emotion,  real  or  feigned.  He  is 
glad  to  hear  her  merry  applause  (heiteren  Beifall).  "Most  people," 
says  he,  "are  moved  by  something  beautiful,  but  they  are  not  artisti- 
cally minded;  artists  burst  into  flames,  not  tears." 

67  Goethe  shared  this  opinion.  When  in  1800  young  Count  Wolf 
Baudissin  told  him  that  for  the  sake  of  Bach  he  would  be  willing 
"to  live,  languish,  and  suffer,"  Goethe  replied  coldly,  "In  Art 
there  is  no  such  thing  as  suffering  (Von  Leiden  k'onne  ja  bei  der 
Kunst  keine  Rede  sein)."  This  shows  that  in  past  days,  he,  in  his 
turn,  could  have  taught  Beethoven  a  lesson.  But  his  physical  emotion 
often  gave  the  lie  to  his  reasoning.  Tears  would  often  rise  to  his 
eyes  when  he  read  aloud:  then  he  would  throw  the  book  down 
angrily.  He  was  annoyed  at  being  so  moved  by  the  beauty  of  the 
passage.  When  Zelter,  for  the  first  time,  played  his  Lieder  in  the 
presence  of  Goethe  and  Schiller,  he  was  astounded  to  see  the  violent 
expression  of  their  feeling.  They  "acted  the  Songs,"  marched  up  and 
down,  gesticulating. 

88  I  am  following  here  the  text  of  Bettina's  letter  to  Puckler- 

=  219 

Muskau,  which  is  not  so  well  known  as  Beethoven's  letter  to  Bet- 
tina. The  lattet  is  quoted,  in  part,  in  my  short  Life  of  Beethoven. 

69  This  can  be  completed  by  Beethoven's  letter  to  Bettina  (it  does 
not  matter  whether  it  was  written  by  Beethoven  himself  or  by  Bet- 
tina from  her  notes  of  what  he  had  told  her) . 

"One  must  be  what  one  would  appear  to  be!"  Beethoven  is  said 
to  have  told  Goethe  {"Man  muss  sein  was  man  scheinen  will"). 

And  he  goes  on:  "I  gave  him  a  good  talking-to,  and  showed  him 
no  mercy.  I  reproached  him  with  all  his  sins,  especially  towards 
you,  my  dear  Bettina." 

This  is  a  proof  that  Bettina  had  told  Beethoven  how  vexed  and 
grieved  she  was,  and  that  this  contributed  to  Beethoven's  severity 
towards  Goethe.  Perhaps  there  is  also  a  trace  of  jealousy  in  the  fol- 
lowing passage:  "God!  if  only  I  could  have  had  as  good  a  time  with 
you  as  that  one  (wie  der)  enjoyed.  Believe  me,  I  would  have  done 
greater,  far  greater  things!" 

The  letter  contains  other  interesting  details  which  have  since 
turned  out  to  be  correct  and  which  are  usually  omitted.  Goethe  is 
shown  coaching  the  empress  in  a  theatrical  part,  and  Beethoven 
refusing,  in  his  grumbling  fashion,  to  help  with  his  music.  We  also 
see  Goethe  and  his  grand  duke,  enthusiastic  (verliebt)  over  Chinese 
porcelain,  and  Beethoven,  quaintly  attributing  this  craze,  which 
seemed  to  him  absurd,  to  the  unbalanced  spirit  of  the  time  "in 
which  reason  has  no  longer  the  'upper  hand.'  "  Beethoven  always 
quotes  reason  when  he  attacks  Goethe.  "But,"  he  concluded,  "I  take 
no  share  in  all  these  follies  of  theirs." 

70  With  what  keen  intelligence  did  Goethe,  who  was  not  musical, 
appreciate  the  fact  that  Beethoven's  musical  powers  were  not  af- 
fected by  his  deafness.  He  saw  that  the  man  only,  not  the  artist, 
was  stricken. 

71  The  sight,  not  the  thought  of  death.  It  goes  without  saying 
that  a  man  of  Goethe's  intellectual  and  moral  calibre  never  feared 
the  thought  of  death.  He  often  speaks  of  it,  and  we  find  many  ref- 
erences to  it  in  his  Conversations.  It  will  suffice  to  mention  the 

220  = 

splendid  reverie  prompted  by  the  death  of  Wieland  on  January  25, 
1813,  and  which  Falk  described  at  length.  Generally  speaking, 
Goethe  set  against  the  idea  of  entire  dissolution  his  firm  belief  in 
the  indestructibility  of  the  spirit  (among  twenty  other  examples, 
see  the  conversation  with  Eckermann  on  May  2,  1824).  "At  the 
age  of  seventy-five,  one  is  bound  to  think  of  death.  This  thought 
leaves  me  unperturbed  because  I  am  firmly  convinced  that  our  spirit 
is  indestructible  and  progresses  from  eternity  to  eternity.  .  .  ." 

In  considering  death,  it  was  not  so  much  the  idea  of  final  anni- 
hilation which  troubled  him,  as  the  strange  conception  that  the 
surviving  spiritual  entity  might  be  attacked  by  another  grosser  and 
more  powerful  spiritual  being  which  would  subjugate  it.  (See  the 
conversation  with  Falk,  in  which  Goethe,  overwrought  by  his  recent 
bereavement,  abandoned  his  usual  reserve  on  such  subjects  and 
spoke  aloud  to  himself,  as  if  hallucinated.) 

What  I  am  concerned  with  here  is  the  repellent  effect  which  the 
sight  of  death  and  of  the  dead  always  had  on  Goethe.  This  was  a 
constant  obsession  of  his,  and  there  are  many  proofs  of  it.  He 
himself  spoke  of  it  to  Wilhelm  von  Humboldt:  "Daher  sehe  ich 
kerne  To  ten"  ("That  is  why  I  will  not  look  on  any  dead  man"), 
December  3,  1808.  He  gives  all  kinds  of  poetical  reasons  for  this. 
He  compares  life  to  light.  When  life  has  departed,  when  the  sun 
has  set,  there  remains  only  "das  Grau  des  Stoffes  (the  greyness  of 
substance) ."  His  reason  for  refusing  to  see  in  death  those  whom  he 
knew  in  life  is  that  if  he  were  to  look  upon  their  bodies  he  would 
feel  that  they  were  for  ever  "verblichen  und  verschwunden  (faded 
and  vanished)." 

This  explanation  is  no  doubt  correct,  but  it  is  partial:  it  does  not 
give  us  all  that  was  in  his  subconscious  mind.  But  whatever  the 
reason  may  be,  the  fact  remains  that  Goethe  avoided  the  spectacle 
of  death.  In  Goethe,  by  Emil  Ludwig,  there  is  an  account  of  the 
death  of  one  of  Goethe's  friends,  the  Minister  of  State  von 
Voigt,  and  the  tender,  poignant  letter  of  the  dying  man;  twenty- 
four  hours  later  he  was  dead,  just  a  few  steps  from  Goethe's  house. 

=  221 

Goethe,  who  lacked  the  courage  to  visit  him,  had  calmly  replied  to 
his  letter.  .  .  .  Another  who  well  knew  his  aversion  to  death  was 
Frau  von  Stein.  On  her  deathbed  she  gave  instructions  that  her 
funeral  was  not  to  pass  before  her  good  friend's  house.  During  the 
funeral  Goethe  stayed  at  home,  reading  Victor  Hugo  and  Hunting  in 
Mongolia.  .  .  .  But  when  an  intimate  friend  came  to  describe  the 
ceremony,  he  burst  into  tears. 

Let  us  not,  therefore,  be  hard  in  our  judgment.  Do  not  let  us 
accuse  him  of  lack  of  feeling.  Who  has  ever  explored  the  depth  of 
his  sorrows?  Let  us  rather  read  once  more  the  immortal  plaint,  in 
Wilhelm  Meister,  of  the  Harpist. 

72  At  the  age  of  eighty,  he  said,  "Wollte  ich  mich  ungehindert 
gehen  lassen,  so  lage  es  wohl  in  mir,  mich  selbst  und  meine  Um- 
gebung  zu  Grunde  zu  richten  (If  I  were  to  let  myself  go,  without  re- 
straint, I  should  bring  to  utter  ruin  not  only  myself,  but  all  those 
near  and  dear  to  me)." 

73  "Was  euch  nicht  angehort,  miisset  ihr  meiden,  was  euch  das 
Innere  stort,  durft  ihr  nicht  leiden"  (You  must  shun  what  does  not 
concern  you:  you  cannot  endure  that  which  disturbs  your  inner 

74  Let  us  add  that  Goethe  at  that  time  was  flirting  assiduously 
with  the  first  lady-in-waiting,  Countess  O'Donnell,  and  was  very 
busy  writing  her  love  letters  and  poems. 

73  Letter  to  Breitkopf,  August  9,  1812. 

76  Und  jreute  sich  ganz  kindisch  dass  er  Goethen  so  geneckt  habe. 

77  They  were  not  alone  in  this.  At  that  time  Goethe  was  showing 
an  exaggerated  respect  for  those  in  high  position,  and  their  victo- 
ries. He  had  just  praised  the  Empress  of  France  and  the  continental 
blockade.  German  patriots  rose  in  revolt  against  this,  and  popular 
irony  avenged  itself  by  calling  Goethe's  wife  "Frau  Abstinental- 

7H  When  he  returned  to  his  home  in  Weimar  he  found  Zelter's 
rude  letter  which  was  so  insulting  to  Beethoven,  and  which  I  have 

222  ^= 

mentioned  already  (see  page  24) .  Considering  Goethe's  disposition, 
it  must  have  had  a  deadly  effect  on  him. 

79  It  was  this  likeness  which  fetched  out  the  old  bear  from  the 
solitude  of  his  woods.  "The  wild  man"  (der  wilde  Mann)  who 
refused  all  invitations  came  and  played  for  Rahel  one  afternoon,  but 
it  was  the  deaf  playing  to  the  deaf;  music  meant  very  little  to  her. 

80  This  remark  was  made  by  Kalischer  {Beethoven  und  Berlin) . 
I  have,  however,  found  it  to  be  correct  by  comparing  it  with 
Rahel' s  writings,  and  was  all  the  more  surprised  at  it  because  she 
frequently  mentions  music  and  musicians,  with  the  single  exception 
of  Beethoven.  On  the  other  hand  her  husband,  Varnhagen,  to  whom 
she  is  the  Law  and  the  Prophets,  expressed,  up  to  1812,  a  boundless 
admiration  for  Beethoven  (letter  to  Uhland,  1811).  From  1812  on 
he  too  is  obediently  silent.  He  stands  aside  and  mentions  him  only 
in  passing. 

81  But  he  is  still  unaware  that  Beethoven  had  written  other  music 
also  to  this  work. 

82  On  January  29,  1814,  Egmont  was  at  last  performed  with 
music  for  the  first  time  in  Weimar.  Goethe  enters  in  his  diary,  "In 
the  evening,  Egmont.  .  .  ." 

He  did  not  mention  Beethoven's  name. 

Again,  while  he  spoke  at  length  in  his  letters  of  the  pleasure 
which  he  derived  from  Himmel's  insignificant  music  to  his  Lieder, 
or  from  the  compositions  of  titled  nonentities  like  Count  von  Diet- 
richstein,  Beethoven  never  received  a  single  word  of  appreciation 
or  blame,  which  he  so  ardently  desired.  It  is  also  significant  that 
while  his  correspondent,  F.  von  Gentz,  who  sent  him  Dietrichstein's 
Lieder,  added  much  praise  of  Beethoven's  three  beautiful  Lieder  to 
poems  by  Goethe,  which  were  published  at  that  time,  Goethe  in 
his  reply  praised  the  titled  musician's  work  profusely  and  cere- 
moniously, but  never  so  much  as  mentioned  Beethoven's. 

83  Where  was  the  discovery  made  ?  He  found  his  road  to  Damas- 
cus— oh,  bitter  irony! — in  the  weakest  of  Beethoven's  compositions, 
the  only  wretched  rhapsody  among  all  that  he  wrote,  the  Schlacht- 

=  223 

symphonie,  1816  ("The  Battle  of  Vittoria").  On  hearing  it,  Zelter 
became  greatly  excited,  threw  his  perruque  in  the  air,  and  shouted: 
"Vivat  Genius!  And  may  the  devil  take  all  the  critics!  (und  hoi'  der 
Teufel  alle  Kritikl)"  Nor  was  this  all.  The  same  ironical  fate 
decreed  that  at  the  close  of  his  life  Zelter  should  go  into  raptures 
over  the  same  "scandalous"  Christ  on  the  Mount  of  Olives,  which 
he  had  described  as  being  "pervertedly  lustful."  In  1831  this 
"shameless"  work  of  old  had  become  "soothing  and  charming,  like 
the  pleasant  dream  of  a  summer  night." 

84  Marianna,  who  for  two  years  had  been  a  dancer,  singer,  and 
comedienne,  at  the  theatre  in  Frankfurt,  before  marrying  in  1814  the 
rich  banker  Willemer,  twenty- four  years  older  than  herself;  she 
was  both  poetess  and  musician;  she  was  a  good  exponent  of  Mo- 
zart's Lie  der,  and  had  a  profound  understanding  of  the  fine  influ- 
ence of  music,  and  of  the  relief  it  brings  in  sorrow — "was  du  erlebst 
in  dir  erneut  und  mild  dir's  nur  gewtihrt,  so  dass  was  schwarzte,  sich 
verklart,  was  jreute  inniger  erjreut."  .  .  .  "Music  .  .  .  gives  new 
and  milder  forms  to  one's  feelings,  makes  bright  what  was  dark, 
and  increases  the  joy  of  what  is  pleasant." 

85  June  26,  1821. 

86  July  12,  1821. 

87  His  intuition  of  the  music  of  the  future  is  remarkable.  One  is 
not  surprised  to  find  that  Lobe  became  one  of  the  foremost  German 
theoreticians  of  the  next  period. 

88  "That  is  the  evil  spirit  which  threatens  you  young  fellows!  You 
are  ever  ready  to  create  new  ideals,  but  how  do  you  carry  them  into 
effect?  Your  principle,  that  each  part  in  music  must  express  some- 
thing, sounds  very  well.  Yes,  it  seems  as  if  it  should  have  been  recog- 
nized and  practised  long  before  by  every  composer,  because  it  is 
sound  reason.  But  whether  the  musical  work  of  art  lends  itself  to 
the  use  of  this  principle,  and  whether  the  enjoyment  of  music  does 
not  suffer  through  it,  is  a  different  question.  You  would  do  well  not 
to  be  satisfied  merely  with  thinking  this  out,  but  to  experiment  with 
it.  In  every  form  of  art  there  are  certain  weaknesses  connected  with 


the  fundamental  idea,  which  must  be  allowed  for  in  practice,  be- 
cause if  we  disregard  them  we  come  too  close  to  nature,  and  our 
art  becomes  inartistic  (unkunstlerisch) ." 

This  lesson  of  a  master  artisan  is  worthy  of  consideration.  The 
inventors  of  theories  on  art,  the  "ists"  of  all  times,  would  do  well 
to  take  it  to  heart.  Certainly  no  theory  has  any  value  unless  proved 
in  practice.  But  Goethe's  practical  tests  were  far  too  hasty,  and  as 
far  as  the  present  instance  is  concerned,  were  certainly  biassed. 

89  On  principle,  Goethe  was  resolutely  opposed  to  "speech  with 
music" — to  "melodrama" — and  he  said  so  on  many  occasions.  See 
his  conversation  with  W.  von  Humboldt,  on  December  3,  1808: 

"Gegen  das  Sprechen  zur  Musik  erklarte  sich  Goethe  so:  Musik 
set  die  reine  Unvernunft  und  die  Sprache  habe  es  nur  mit  der 
Vernunft  zu  thun  (Music  has  nothing  whatever  to  do  with  reason, 
while  speech  has  to  do  with  nothing  but  reason)."  He  referred  to 
Schiller's  bad  habit  of  demanding  music  to  accompany  his  speeches, 
as  in  the  Maid  of  Orleans,  but  added  that  he.  Goethe,  had  always 
been  against  it.  Humboldt  heard  him  on  many  occasions  speak 
strongly  on  the  same  matter.  (We  shall  return  to  this  subject, 
which  is  well  worth  discussing;  Goethe  did  not  mean  to  deprive 
himself  of  music,  but  wanted  to  incorporate  it  in  poetry  which,  as 
he  said,  was  to  him  a  superior  kind  of  music.  See  Essay  III  in 
this  book,  "Goethe  the  Musician.")  Goethe's  admission  in  public, 
that  the  composer  had  "admirably  understood  his  meaning"  in 
Egmonfs  monologue  was  in  any  case  no  small  victory  for 

90  It  is  he  who  gave  the  Sonata,  op.  27,  no.  2,  the  name  "Moon- 
light Sonata." 

91  "The  Councillor  of  State  of  Weimar,  Schmidt,  an  ardent  ad- 
mirer of  Beethoven,  played  all  his  sonatas  with  much  fire  and 
facility  (sic).  He  knew  many  of  them  by  heart"   (Rellstab). 

92  According  to  Max  Friedlaender  it  was  the  manuscript  of 
Wonne  der  Wehmut. 

=  225 

93  Frimmel,  Beethovenstudien,  II. 

94  Goethe  had  made  a  note,  on  May  21,  1822,  that  he  had  re- 
ceived them,  and  though  he  was  so  particular  in  matters  of  courtesy, 
he  had  no  word  of  thanks  for  Beethoven. 

95  Theodore  de  Wyzewa,  Beethoven  and  Wagner.  The  article 
on  Beethoven  and  Goethe  is  puerile  and  full  of  mistakes. 

90  "The  poor  fellow  is  almost  completely  deaf.  I  could  hardly 
restrain  my  tears." 

When  in  1825  Zelter  wrote  to  Beethoven,  through  Rellstab,  who 
conveyed  the  letter,  "it  was  written,"  said  Rellstab,  "in  terms  such 
as  might  be  addressed  to  a  saint  in  heaven."  Beethoven  was  much 
moved  by  this,  and  deeply  thankful. 

97  We  cannot  find  any  reference  either  in  Rahel's  profuse  cor- 
respondence, which  included  all  the  intellectual  and  artistic  horizon 
of  Europe.  We  ought  to  make  a  list  of  those  great  German  per- 
sonalities of  the  time,  for  whom  Beethoven's  death  had  no  sig- 
nificance. And  yet  Beethoven's  death  created  a  considerable  stir. 
The  popular  apotheosis  on  the  occasion  of  Beethoven's  funeral  in 
Vienna  reechoed  triumphantly  throughout  the  world. 

98  July  24,   1809. 

90  According  to  a  note  in  his  letter  to  Humboldt,  Goethe's 
"Helena,  klassisch-romantische  Phantasmagorie,  ein  Intermezzo  zu 
Faust  .  .  /'  was  published  during  this  year.  This  arbitrary  inter- 
polation of  an  episode  in  Faust  almost  "deforms"  the  great  work. 

ioo  Goethe  was  evidently  thinking  of  the  orchestra  performing  the 
piece  which  Mendelssohn  had  played  to  him.  But  his  astonishment 
gives  his  thoughts  an  extraordinary  form.  It  is  as  if  humanity  as  a 
whole  was  drawn  into  the  whirlwind  of  the  C  Minor  Symphony. 

101 1  have  come  to  this  conclusion  by  several  different  paths  in 
the  course  of  writing  this  essay. 

102  In  the  Conversation  Notebook  we  see  that  after  the  visitor 
had  left,  Beethoven  complained  to  Schindler  of  what  he  had  said. 

103  Beethoven's  memory  is  here  at  fault ;  he  should  have  said 

226  ^= 

"Teplitz."  This  is  a  further  reason  why  Bettina  must  be  excused 
when  she  gave  the  letter  received  from  Beethoven  in  Teplitz  the 
date  of  August  instead  of  July,  1812. 

104  December,  1826. 

105  It  was  to  Hummel  that  he  addressed  the  two  well-known  notes, 
written  one  after  the  other  in  1798: 

"Don't  come  to  me  again!"  (Beethoven  here  used  the  third 
person,  which  at  that  time  was  used  in  Germany  when  speaking 
to  a  subordinate.)  "You  are  a  treacherous  hound:  the  dog-catcher 
should  be  after  you." 

"Dear  friend  of  my  heart!  (Herzens  Nazerl!)  You  are  a  loyal  fel- 
low, and  you  were  right ;  I  can  see  it  now.  So  please  come  to  me  this 
afternoon.  You  will  meet  also  Schuppanzigh  and  between  the  two 
of  us  we  are  going  to  give  you  a  good  roughing,  pommelling  and 
shaking  (riiffeln,  kniijfeln  und  schutteln),  to  your  heart's  content. 

"I  hug  you.  Your  Beethoven,  alias  'Flour  Basin'  (Mehl- 

106  In  1829,  speaking  to  Eckermann,  Goethe  went  so  far  as  to 
compare  Hummel  to  Napoleon.  "Napoleon  controls  the  world  as 
does  Hummel  his  piano.'  The  two  seem  to  us  admirable  in  their 
mastery;  how  each  contrives  to  do  it  we  cannot  tell,  and  yet  it  is 
so,  and  it  has  happened  under  our  very  eyes."  April  7th. 

107  "I  could  hardly  restrain  my  tears"  (letter  to  Goethe,  Septem- 
ber 14,  1819).  In  this  letter  Zelter  refers  to  the  extraordinary 
respect  in  which  Beethoven  was  held  in  Vienna,  in  spite  of  all  the 
criticism  of  his  strange  character.  This  testimony  of  high  public 
esteem  over  Zelter's  signature  could  not  fail  to  impress  Goethe,  the 
Privy  Councillor. 

108  w/nat  are  we  t0  think  of  Rochlitz's  silence,  when  he  wrote  to 
Goethe,  describing  his  voyage,  without  even  mentioning  Beethoven  ? 
Many  of  Goethe's  visitors  had  been  directly  or  indirectly  in  touch 
with  Beethoven — Louis  Spohr,  Emmanuel  Alois  Forster,  etc. 

*  Translator's  Note. — Mehlschoberl  in  Viennese  dialect  means  "Flour 
Basin"  and  is  a  nickname  often  given  to  stout  persons. 

=  227 

100  ".  .  .  Mir  ist  das  All.  icb  bin  mir  selbst  verloren, 
Der  ich  noch  erst  den  Gottern  Liebling  war. 

Sle  trennen  mich,  unci  richten  mich  zu  Grunde." 

("The  world  is  lost  to  me,  and  lost  my  inner  self, 
And  yet  I  was  once  the  darling  of  the  gods. 

They  sever  me,  and  ruin  me") 

— Elegie  von  Marienbad.  Summer,  1823. 

110  When,  later  in  life,  he  remembered  this,  he  wept  once  more. 

in  "Nun  ayer  dock  das  eigentlich  Wunderbarste!  Die  ungeheure 
Geualt  der  Musik  auf  mich  in  diesen  Tagen!  Die  Stimme  der  Milder, 
das  klangreiche  der  Szymanowska,  ja  sogar  die  ojfentlichen  Exhibi- 
tionen  der  hiesigen  Jagerkorps,  falten  mich  auseinander  wie  man 
einen  ge  bailie  Faust  freundlich  flach  las  si"  ("And  now  the  most 
wonderful  thing  of  all!  The  enormous  power  which  music  has 
had  over  me  lately!  Milder's  voice,  Szymanowska's  playing,  even 
the  public  performances  of  the  local  infantry  band — they  all  make 
me  relax  just  as  a  man's  fist,  closed  in  anger,  opens  under  a  friendly 

112  Maria  Szymanowska,  nee  Wotowska,  was  born  in  1790.  She 
died,  still  a  young  woman,  in  1832,  the  same  year  as  Goethe,  at 
St.  Petersburg. 

Was  her  musical  talent  outstanding?  I  have  been  fortunate  in 
acquiring  a  private  edition  of  her  compositions,  not  mentioned  by 
Eitner  and  Fetis.  Twenty  Exercises  and  Preludes  for  Pianoforte, 
composed  and  dedicated  to  Countess  Chodkiewick  by  Mme. 
Szymanowska,  nee  Wotowska,  First  Edition,  47  engraved  pages. 
These  compositions  are  written  in  a  fluent  but  somewhat  nebulous 
style,  which  was  no  doubt  the  result  of  the  influence  of  Field,  whose 
pupil  she  had  been,  although  both  were  almost  the  same  age.  Her 
style  was,  in  a  way,  a  forerunner  of  Mendelssohn,  with  here  and 
there  a  touch  of  Schumann.  The  part  for  the  right  hand  is  light 

228  ^^ 

and  graceful,  that  for  the  left  hand  is  rudimentary  only.  It  is  char- 
acteristic that  out  of  twenty  pieces  there  is  not  a  single  one  which 
is  passionate  or  pathetic,  allegro  molto  or  adagio.  Nearly  all  of 
them  are  a  milder  kind — moderato,  scherzando,  grazioso,  con 
spirito,  commodo.  The  only  one  which  attempts  to  express 
"thought"  or  which,  to  use  a  simpler  expression,  approaches  emo- 
tion, is  the  last,  cantabile,  where  to  our  surprise  we  find  a  passage 
reminding  us  of  an  orchestral  arrangement  from  Fidelio  (O  Go  it! 
Welch  ein  Augenblick!) .  Ariel's  fingers  do  not  trouble  the  old  heart, 
too  exposed  to  emotion  and  too  fearful  of  it:  they  lull  it  to  rest. 

113  Some  one  had  proposed  the  toast,  "Our  memories."  Goethe 
knocked  on  the  table  and  said  (the  following  is  a  short  summary 
of  his  words) :  "I  do  not  like  these  words.  The  toast  seems  to 
imply  that  we  have  forgotten  and  that  some  outer  event  recalls 
our  memories  to  us.  Those  things  which  are  great  and  beautiful 
never  leave  us;  they  become  part  of  ourselves;  they  bring  forth  in 
us  a  new  and  better  'ego':  thus  they  go  on  living  and  creating 
within  ourselves.  It  is  not  the  past  but  the  eternally  new  which 
our  desires  would  have  us  seek;  the  new  is  itself  the  creation  of 
ever-growing  elements  of  the  past.  True  longing  (die  echte  Sehn- 
sucht)  must  always  be  productive  (produktiv)  and  fashion  a  new 
and  better  self.  .  .  .  And,"  he  adds,  "this  is  precisely  what  we 
have  felt  during  these  last  days.  Our  deepest,  inmost  self  has  been 
refreshed,  refined,  ennobled,  by  this  glorious  artist.  No,  she  can 
never  leave  us,  for  she  has  passed  into  our  most  intimate  selves  and 
will  for  ever  live  within  us.  ..." 

114  Hiller  gave  an  account  of  this  later  in  his  book,  Aus  dem 
Tonleben  unserer  Zeit,  neue  Folge  1868-71  (Contemporary  Musi- 
cal Notes.  New  Series) . 

115  Hummel  was  so  full  of  Beethoven's  greatness  that  when  in 
1830  he  organized  a  series  of  concerts  at  popular  prices  at  the 
Hoftheater  in  Weimar,  he  inaugurated  them  with  the  overture  to 
Leonora  and  the  Battle  of  Vittoria. 

110  The  following  is  a  definite  indirect  proof:  J.  J.  Ampere  and 


Albert  Stapfer  called  on  Goethe  about  this  time  (the  end  of  March 
or  the  beginning  of  April).  They  would  also  have  liked  to  see 
Weimar's  second  celebrity,  Hummel  (these  were  their  own  words). 
But  Hummel  was  still  away. 

"The  latter,  for  whom  we  also  had  a  letter  of  introduction,  had 
left  for  Vienna,  to  delight  the  ears  of  the  Austrian  public,  and  we 
hope  very  much  that  we  shall  meet  him  there.  We  have  been  .  .  . 
very  disappointed  at  missing  him.  ..." 

Not  a  word  of  Beethoven.  Nobody  in  Weimar  told  them.  Goethe, 
who  knew  it,  did  not  tell  them  that  Beethoven  was  dying  and  that 
Hummel  had  gone  to  close  his  eyes.  This  concealment  seems  hor- 
rible to  me. 

117  Since  January  29,  1814. 

118 1  have  in  my  collection  a  call-sheet  of  the  Hoftheater  in 
Weimar,  signed  "Goethe,"  dated  September  19,  1816,  in  which 
we  read: 

Monday,  September  23rd:  Nathan. 

Tuesday,  September  24th:  Rehearsal  of  Griselda. 

Afternoon,  general  rehearsal  of  Fidelio. 
Wednesday,  September  25th:  Performance  of  the  Opera 

This  was  two  years  after  the  performances  in  Vienna. 

119  Why  should  he  have  deprived  himself  of  one  of  his  mental 
powers  ?  He  needed  them  all. 

"Are  we  to  give  first  place  to  the  historian  or  to  the  poet?  This 
question  should  never  be  asked.  They  are  not  rivals,  any  more  than 
the  runner  and  the  wrestler.  Each  deserves  his  laurel  crown" 
(Gedanken  in  Prosa,  part  IV,  1825). 

120  He  was  fond  of  quoting  the  French  saying:  "Voir  venir  les 
choses  est  le  meilleur  moyen  de  les  'expliquer.'  " 

121  Rochlitz  intended  to  organize  in  Weimar  a  much  more  im- 
portant series  of  lectures,  with  musical  illustrations,  dealing  with 
the  five  principal  periods  of  musical  history  in  Germany  and  Italy, 

230  = 

during  the  preceding  three  centuries.  The  cholera  epidemic  of  1831 
prevented  this  plan  from  being  carried  out. 

122  Even  when  we  revert  to  the  great  works  of  the  past  (and  each 
period  selects  different  works  from  that  great  library:  yesterday, 
Beethoven  and  Wagner;  to-day,  Bach  and  Mozart)  it  is  never  the 
past  which  comes  to  life  in  us;  it  is  we  ourselves  who  cast  our 
shadows  on  the  past,  with  our  desires,  our  problems,  our  sense  of 
order  or  our  confused  thinking.  The  Bach  of  our  day  has  nothing 
in  common  with  the  Bach  of  Goethe's  day,  not  to  speak  of  Bach 
himself.  We  can  never  hope  to  penetrate  the  inner  self  of 

123  The  standard  work  on  this  subject  is  that  mine  of  information, 
Die  Tonkunst  in  Goethes  Leben,  2  vols.,  by  Wilhelm  Bode.  Berlin, 
1912,  {Music  in  Goethe's  life),  completed  by  the  same  author's 
other  work  Goethes  Schauspieler  und  Musiker,  1  vol.  Berlin.  1912. 
{Goethe's  Actors  and  Musicians.) 

There  is  nothing  in  Goethe's  life  which  Bode  does  not  know,  but 
Bode  is  not  a  musician.  The  same  subject,  however,  has  been  treated 
from  the  musician's  point  of  view  by  Hermann  Abert,  an  eminent 
writer  on  music,  in  his  excellent  work,  Goethe  und  die  Musik  (J. 
Engelhom's  Nachf.  Stuttgart,  1922).  The  principal  feature  of  this 
little  book  is  the  reconstruction  of  the  musical  atmosphere  in  which 
Goethe  lived ;  the  author  shows  clearly  to  what  extent  Goethe  agreed 
with  the  ideas  of  the  time  on  music  in  general  and  on  the  different 
forms  of  music,  Lied,  opera,  and  instrumental  music,  and  in  what 
way  his  art  reacted  upon  the  music  of  his  time,  and  vice  versa. 

I  must  also  mention  the  writings  on  this  subject  by  Wasielewsky, 
Philip  Spitta,  and  Max  Friedlaender. 

124  Seine  Freude  am  Klange. 

125  The  actor  Genast,  in  his  memoirs,  shows  him  forbidding  the 
public  to  laugh  at  a  performance  of  Ion  in  1802,  and  calling  to 
order  rowdy  students  of  Jena  at  a  performance  of  Schiller's  Rauber 
{The  Robbers)  in  1808.  Here  is  another  amusing  anecdote,  told  by 
the  music  historian,   Christian  Lobe    {vide  his  conversation  with 

=  231 

Goethe,  pages  58  and  59  of  this  book).  Lobe  was  then  young, 
and  very  much  in  love  with  an  actress  who  was  playing  in  Turandot 
at  Weimar.  He  had  slipped  into  a  dark  corner  of  the  theatre  during 
the  rehearsal,  and  tried  to  watch  her  from  behind  a  column.  But  as 
she  was  on  his  side  of  the  stage  he  could  not  see  her.  Lobe  came 
out  from  his  hiding-place,  and  from  seat  to  seat  worked  his  way 
to  the  centre  of  the  stalls.  He  saw  his  beloved,  she  saw  him,  and 
the  silly  young  lovers  exchanged  signs  of  recognition.  Lobe,  in  his 
joy,  rose,  without  thinking,  from  his  seat.  Suddenly,  from  the  depth 
of  a  box,  thundered  the  bass  voice  of  His  Excellency  von  Goethe, 
"Remove  that  dirty  mongrel  from  my  sight!"  ("Schafft  mir  doch  den 
Scbweinehund  aus  den  Augen!")  Lobe  fled,  jumping  over  the 
seats,  stumbling,  falling,  in  utter  confusion  and  shame,  with  the 
laughter  of  the  actors  ringing  in  his  ears.  Only  long  after  did  he 
hear  that  Goethe's  vigorous  remark  was  not  addressed  to  him,  but 
to  the  coach  and  accompanist,  Eilenstein,  a  drunkard,  who  was 
strumming  on  the  piano  a  fantastic  march  which  had  derived  its 
inspiration  from  the  bottle. 

126  Like  Beethoven,  he  composed  many  of  his  poems  as  he  walked 
and  sang,  and  there  is  a  good  reason  why  a  number  of  them  have 
the  title  "The  Wanderer."  A  significant  passage  in  the  Wander jahre 
("Years  of  Wandering")  of  Wilhelm  Meister  reveals  to  us  the 
musical  character  of  his  creative  process: 

"It  often  happens  that  a  hidden  genius  whispers  a  rhythm  to 
me,  so  that,  as  I  wander  about,  I  am  always  moving  to  it.  I  hear 
faint  sounds,  too,  the  accompaniment  of  a  Lied  which  somehow 
pleasantly  suggests  itself  to  me."  {"Mir  scheint  oft  ein  geheimer 
Genius  etwas  Rhythmisches  vorzufiustern,  so  doss  ich  mich  beim 
Wandern  jedesmal  im  Takt  bewege  und  zugleich  leise  Tone  zu 
vernehmen  glaube,  wodurch  denn  irgendein  Lied  begleitet  wird, 
doss  sich  mir  auf  eine  oder  die  andere  Weise  gefallig  vergegen- 
wartigt")  III.  I. 

Thus,  it  is  first  the  rhythm  which  forms  the  framework,  then  the 
melody  which  clothes  it.   Finally  there  is  the  poem  itself.  Abert 

232  = 

correctly  states  that  the  rhythm  is  the  soul  of  the  "inner  music" 
from  which  Goethe's  poems  have  sprung.  "Der  Takt  kommt  aus  der 
poetischen  Stimmung,  wie  unbewusst"  ("The  rhythm  is  the  uncon- 
scious outcome  of  the  poetical  mood")  (to  Eckermann  April  6th, 

127  Bode,  op.  cit.,  II,  345. 

128  reMeb?e  Seele  lost  sich  nach  und  nach  dutch  die  lieblichen 
Tone  aus  den  Banden  der  Protokolle  und  Akten"  ("Pleasant  musical 
sounds  gradually  set  my  soul  free  from  the  bonds  of  juridical 
protocols  and  acts")  (February  22,  1779).  After  his  almost  fatal 
illness  of  1801  his  first  desire  was  to  hear  music. 

129  During  the  Seven  Years'  War  the  French  were  in  occupation 
of  Frankfurt  for  four  years.  Their  theatrical  companies  came  from 

130  Gluck's  importance  for  Goethe,  as  for  Herder  and  Klopstock, 
depended  not  only  upon  his  beautiful  and  classic  construction  of  a 
tragedy  set  to  music  with  choruses,  which  called  to  mind  the  old 
Greek  tragedies,  but  also  upon  the  happy  enunciation  which  he 
secured  of  the  music  latent  in  poetical  speech.  His  small  collection 
of  Lieder  written  to  Klopstock's  odes  and  particularly  that  very 
short  masterpiece  "Die  jrilhen  Graber"  ("The  Graves  of  the 
Young")  was  an  unsurpassed  model  for  all  the  German  artists  of 
the  period.  He  thus  showed  the  poets  the  way  to  a  Sprachmelodie 
("melodic  speech"),  a  melody  of  the  word,  a  musical  poetry.  It  is 
difficult  to  realize  nowadays  what  a  fountain  of  study  these  short 
odes,  so  soberly  clad  in  music,  were  for  the  greatest  writers  of  that 
generation  in  Germany. 

131  On  May  6,  1776,  while  in  the  mountains  near  Ilmenau,  he 
wrote  his  "Rastlose  Liebe"  ("Restless  Love"). 

132  A  fine  letter  from  Wieland  to  Gluck,  written  on  June  13, 
1776,  tells  us  of  his  attempts  to  approach  Goethe,  who  alone  was 
worthy  to  write  such  a  work,  and  the  unfortunate  circumstances 
which  prevented  his  plan  from  being  carried  out.  ...  "I  went  to 
sec  him  and  showed  him  your  letter.  I  found  him  next  day  already 

=  233 

full  of  a  great  scheme  on  this  subject;  I  could  see  it  taking  shape, 
and  was  delighted  with  it,  notwithstanding  the  gteat  difficulties. 
But  nothing  seems  impossible  to  Goethe.  I  saw  how  lovingly  he 
tended  it.  Give  him  but  a  few  days  of  peace  and  solitude  and  what 
I  read  in  his  soul  would  become  a  reality.  .  .  .  But  Fate  granted 
neither  him  nor  you  this  consolation.  .  .  .  His  situation  here  be- 
came continually  more  and  more  difficult,  and  his  activity  was 
distracted  in  other  directions.  ...  In  short,  there  is  now  prac- 
tically no  hope  that  he  will  in  the  near  future  complete  the  work 
which  he  began.  He  certainly  did  not  abandon  it  of  his  own  free 
will.  I  know  that  from  time  to  time  he  is  still  seriously  working  at 
it;  but  what  can  one  expect  when,  on  account  of  his  many  duties, 
he  has  not  a  single  day  he  can  call  his  own?  However,  knowing 
this  great  mortal  {den  herrlichen  Sterblichen)  as  I  do,  I  feel  certain 
that  he  will  complete  it  yet  .  .  ." 

133  May  25,   1776. 

134  It  has  been  suggested  that  it  was  the  first  sketch  of  his 

135  I  have  collected  quite  a  number  of  documents  bearing  on  this 
tragic  event  in  Gluck's  life.  Among  these  original  letters  is  one  from 
"the  little  Chinese  girl"  to  Abbe  Arnaud,  which  I  think  is  unique, 
and  also  the  moving  letter  from  Gluck  to  Klopstock,  written  on 
May  10,  1776,  two  weeks  after  his  niece's  death. 

13G  In  the  grand-ducal  library  at  Weimar  there  is  a  magnificent 
bust  of  Gluck,  purchased  by  the  grand  duke  directly  from  the 
sculptor  Houdon,  in  Paris,  in  1775. 

137  His  letters  to  Kayser,  1785-86,  show  how  thoroughly  he  had 
studied  Gluck,  his  operas,  and  his  Lieder. 

138  Diary.  May  13,  1780- January  7,  1781. 

139  He  had  them  sung  by  his  private  choir. 

140  He  shared  the  same  taste  with  Herder  in  Weimar. 

141  For  the  tercentenary  of  the  Reformation,  October  31,  1817. 

142  To  Karl  Gottlieb  Freudenberg,  1825. 

143  We  cannot  understand,  however,  why  he  did  not  try  to  col- 


laborate  with  him.  No  doubt  on  account  of  his  friendship  with 
Kayser.  It  was  one  of  the  characteristics  of  this  great  artist  always 
to  sacrifice  art  to  friendship  if  the  two  were  in  conflict. 

144  The  auditorium  of  the  theatre  had  been  burnt  out  in  1774, 
shortly  before  Goethe's  arrival  (1775).  The  company  was  dis- 
banded and  an  entirely  fresh  start  had  to  be  made.  It  was  a  thankless 
task,  especially  as  far  as  music  was  concerned. 

145  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  since  1795  Goethe  had  intended 
to  write  a  sequel  to  the  Magic  Flute,  the  value  of  which  he  defended 
against  the  criticism  of  most  of  his  friends.  In  1798  Effland  en- 
couraged him  to  do  it,  but  Schiller  dissuaded  him.  He  published  a 
fragment  of  it.  As  late  as  1801  he  mentioned  it  to  Zelter  as  a 
musical  poem.  Abert,  who  analysed  the  fragment,  thinks  that  it  is 
preparatory  to  the  second  Faust  and  considers  that  of  all  of  Goethe's 
poems  this  is  the  most  suitable  for  interpretation  by  music  in  its  most 
varied  forms,  from  tragedy  in  the  style  of  Gluck  to  the  German 
ballad  opera  (Singspiel).  The  chorus  plays  an  independent  part. 
Simple  prose  is  mingled  with  free  rhythm  in  rhyme. 

146  Nevertheless,  in  1827  he  regretted  that  he  could  not  derive 
the  same  pleasure  as  before  from  hearing  the  Magic  Flute. 

147  Eckermann,  unfortunately,  had  no  one  better  to  suggest  than 
Rossini,  and  Goethe,  on  the  other  hand,  proposed  Meyerbeer! 
Beethoven's  name  was  not  mentioned,  even  as  a  regretful  after- 
thought. Yet  we  know  that  to  write  the  music  to  Faust  was  one  of 
Beethoven's  ardent  desires,  and  that  Goethe's  friend  Rochlitz  had 
been  asked  by  the  publisher  Breitkopf  to  propose  the  poem  to 
Beethoven  in    1822. 

148  Goethe  died  on  March  22nd. 

149  Gluck  was  given  only  very  rarely,  in  spite  of  Goethe's  wish. 
Iphigenie  auf  Tauris  was  performed  in  1800,  and  Armida  in  1832. 

150  June  24,  1826.  "Every  day  I  am  fonder  of  music  which  ex- 
cites (das  Aufregende),"  he  had  written  forty  years  previously,  in 
1787,  during  his  travels  in  Italy,  where  the  sugary  sentimentality 
of  the  Opera  Seria  bored  him. 

=  235 

i5i  November  9,  1829. 

152  His  pupil,  Johann  Kasper  Vogler,  was  organist  in  Weimar  for 
forty-four  years,  until  1765. 

153  In  1800.  I  have  described  this  conversation  on  page  218. 

154  Eduard  Genast,  "Aus  Weimars  Klassischer  und  Nachklas- 
sischer  Zeit"  (Weimar's  classical  and  post-classical  period). 

155  March  11,  21,  and  April  17,  1828.  Soon  after  these  great 
performances,  Mendelssohn  came  to  spend  two  weeks  in  Weimar. 
He  spoke  of  them  to  Goethe  and  played  some  excerpts  to  him. 
Goethe  was  delighted  to  find  that,  contrary  to  what  had  happened 
in  the  case  of  Mozart,  his  taste  for  Bach's  music  had  not  weakened. 
He  listened  to  Mendelssohn  "with  pleasure,  interest,  and  reflection" 

156  "It  almost  seems,"  wrote  Zelter,  "as  if  the  whole  ensemble 
were  an  organ  each  pipe  of  which  is  endowed  with  intelligence, 
energy,  and  will  power,  without  mannerisms  and  without  being 
forced,  in  any  way  (Zwang)." 

157  Bach's  music  makes  him  think  of  God  in  the  Book  of  Genesis. 
His  fine  saying  is  well  known:  "Ah  wenn  die  ewige  Harmonie  sich 
mit  sich  selbst  unterhielte,  wie  sicb's  etwa  in  Gottes  Busen,  kurz 
vor  der  Weltschopfung  mochte  zugetragen  haben"  (It  is  as  if 
the  Eternal  Harmony  soliloquized,  as  must  have  happened  in  God's 
bosom  just  before  the  Creation)  (Correspondence  with  Zelter,  II, 
95.  Reclam  edition). 

158  "Man's  self,  in  so  far  as  he  employs  his  healthy  senses,  is  the 
most  powerful  and  the  most  accurate  physical  apparatus  in  existence" 
(Letter  of  1808  to  Zelter,  to  which  I  shall  refer  again  later).  Goethe 
invariably  opposes  the  tenets  of  mathematicians  and  physicians  which 
suggest  a  dependence  on  artificial  instruments  without  regard  to  the 
living  man,  the  most  perfect  of  all  instruments. 

150  Goethe  was  delighted  to  hear  that  Bach's  contemporaries 
were  amazed  at  the  skill  and  agility  of  his  legs  at  die  organ,  a  fact 
which  supported  his  own  theory.  Zelter,  poking  fun  at  the  mania  of 

236  ^^ 

the  great  man,  his  friend,  on  this  subject,  said,  "Without  feet  Bach 
would  never  have  reached  the  height  of  his  genius." 

160  ne  corresponded  with  the  philologist,  Friedrich  A.  Wolf,  on 
the  subject  of  Greek  music. 

161  1808. 

162  On  the  other  hand,  in  1810  Zelter  gave  him  a  lecture  on 
Palestrina's  Missa  Papae  Marcelli. 

163 1  have  already  remarked  how  often  excessive  scruples  of 
friendship,  much  as  they  were  to  his  honour,  harmed  him 

164  Between  1824  and  1832  he  read  a  number  of  books  and 
treatises  on  music,  notably  those  of  Rochlitz  on  the  subject  of  the 
fugue,  the  origins  of  opera,  on  church  music  from  the  days  of 
Orlando  Lasso  and  so  on.  He  read  carefully  the  musical  journals, 
particularly  the  Caecilia  of  Gottfried  Weber. 

Nor  must  we  forget  the  importance  which  he  attaches  to  the 
schoolmaster's  role  in  music.  In  Wilhelm  Aleiste/s  Years  of  Wan- 
dering (II,  1),  music  is  at  the  root  of  all  instruction.  It  is  the 
central  point  from  which  all  roads  diverge:  exercises  of  the  hand, 
the  ear,  the  eye,  writing,  arithmetic,  etc. 

165  He  mentions  them  in  his  letters  1829-31. 

ice  Festschrift  zu  R.  V.  Liliencron's  90  Geburtstage. 

167  He  returned  to  it  in  1831. 

168  1808. 

169  Compare  the  definition  of  the  minor  in  his  Prose  Thoughts, 
Part  VII:  "The  minor  mode  is  the  harmony  of  passionate  desire. 
The  desire  which  aspires  to  what  is  far  off  but  which  concentrates 
melodiously  within  itself,  produces  the  minor  mode"  {"Die 
Sehnsucht  die  nach  aussen,  in  die  Feme  strebt,  sich  aber  tnelodisch 
in  sich  selbst  beschrankt,  erzeugt  den  Minor")   (Nachlass). 

170  For  a  solution  of  this  musical  puzzle  I  have  resorted  to  the 
kindly  erudition  of  the  two  undoubted  experts  on  the  history  of  the 
songs  of  the  people  in  France  and  Germany — M.  Julien  Tiersot, 
the  historian  of  Rougct  de  Lisle,  and  Professor  Max  Friedlaender, 

=  237 

who  has  nothing  to  learn  on  the  subject  of  the  German  Volkslied 
in  the  eighteenth  and  nineteenth  centuries.  The  exact  information 
which  they  have  been  good  enough  to  afford  me  makes  Beethoven's 
silence  still  more  remarkable. 

In  an  appendix  to  this  book  will  be  found  a  brief  history  of  the 
Marseillaise  in  Germany,  where  it  became  immediately  well  known, 
though  its  significance  was  curiously  misunderstood. 

171  February  19,  1815.  This  impression  clearly  echoes  that  which 
Goethe  directly  received  at  Mainz  twenty-two  years  before,  and 
which  he  recorded  in  his  story  of  the  siege  after  the  French  garrison 
had  marched  out.  "The  most  remarkable  scene,  and  the  one  which 
struck  all  of  us,  was  the  appearance  of  the  light  cavalry.  They  ad- 
vanced upon  us  in  complete  silence;  suddenly  their  band  struck  up 
the  Marseillaise.  There  is  something  mournful  and  threatening  in 
this  Te  Deum  of  the  Revolution  even  when  it  is  played  in  lively 
fashion.  On  this  occasion,  however,  it  was  played  very  slowly  in 
time  to  their  slow  pace.  The  effect  was  terrible  and  awe-inspiring" 
(from  Porchat's  French  translation). 

172  At  which  Zelter,  who  had  never  considered  the  matter  at  all, 
cried  in  astonishment,  "You  and  he  (Le  Neveu  de  Rameau)  under- 
stand music  better  than  I." 

173  It  seems  that  he  heard  a  piece  by  Beethoven  for  the  first  time 
five  months  later. 

174  1831. 

175  The  strange  letter  from  Bettina  to  Goethe,  about  Christmas, 
1810,  which  I  translate  in  an  appendix  to  this  book,  is  further 

176  Goethe,  a  year  old  when  Jean  Sebastian  Bach  died,  and  ten 
years  old  when  Handel  died,  was  born  the  same  year  as  Cimarosa. 
He  was  twenty-five  when  Jommelli  died,  forty-two  when  Mozart 
died,  and  sixty  the  year  of  Haydn's  death.  But  he  was  twenty-seven 
years  of  age  when  Weber  was  born,  forty-eight  when  Schubert  was 
born,  and  fifty-four  in  the  year  of  Berlioz's  birth. 

177  In  the  Lieder  in  which  the  music  is  written  under  his  dictation, 

238  ^^ 

if  one  may  so  express  it,  he  insists  that  the  music  should  follow  the 
minutest  details  in  the  text,  the  divisions  into  verses  and  strophes, 
the  punctuation  and  the  declamation.  When  the  poem  contains 
several  strophes  he  must  have  the  same  melody  for  each;  it  is  the 
singer's  business  to  vary  the  expression.  In  1822  again,  speaking  of 
a  setting  by  Tomaschek,  of  his  Kennst  du  das  Land,  which  he  likes, 
he  expresses  his  displeasure  with  Beethoven  and  Spohr,  who  have 
disregarded  his  instructions  with  regard  to  the  return  of  the  melody 
with  each  strophe.  Where  he  has  written  "Lied,"  he  will  not  allow 
it  to  be  turned  into  an  "Aria." 

178  I  too  have  heard  Clara  Schumann  speak  of  the  old  Goethe 
who  raised  her  higher  on  her  chair,  so  that  her  baby  hands  could 
reach  the  keys.  May  I  not  say  that  I  have  seen  Goethe? 

179  This  curious  passion  for  libretti  persisted  till  his  very  last 
years.  In  1828  he  amused  himself  by  rewriting  the  libretto  for 
Rossini's  Moses.  He  wanted  to  rewrite  his  Tancredi  in  the  form  of  a 
favola  boscareccia  in  the  fashion  of  Poussin.  A  month  before  his 
death,  in  February,  1832,  he  dictated  a  long  essay  on  the  poems  of 
Jouy,  the  librettist  of  Spontini.  He  was  enthusiastic  over  Handel's 
verse,  and  could  not  forgive  Weber  those  of  Euryanthe  and  Oberon. 
Here  Beethoven  shared  his  views ;  in  the  eyes  of  both  the  best  opera 
libretto  was  that  of  The  Water  Carrier  of  Cherubini. 

He  would  never  judge  an  opera  independently  of  the  words.  The 
words  must  always  be  the  first  consideration. 

"I  don't  understand  you,  my  friends,"  he  said  in  1828.  "How 
can  you  possibly  separate  the  subject  from  the  music  and  enjoy  one 
without  regard  to  the  other?  I  marvel  at  you.  How  can  the  hearing 
contrive  to  appreciate  the  pleasures  of  harmony,  when  the  sight, 
most  powerful  of  the  senses,  is  tortured  by  the  imbecility  of  the 
subject.  ..." 

Instead  of  sight  he  might  well  have  said  reason,  and  reason  is 
the  subject  of  the  rest  of  the  homily.  But  as  a  matter  of  fact  the  eye 
was,  with  Goethe,  the  organ  of  reason. 

He  was  right.  Most  musicians  possess  very  poor  sight,  and  still 

=  239 

less  reason.  We  do  not  blame  them  for  it,  so  long  as  their  ears  are 
long.  But  there  is  nothing  to  compel  them  to  put  their  music  into 
operas,  that  is  to  say  to  torture  both  sight  and  common  sense.  I 
cordially  approve  Goethe's  sentiments,  and  Beethoven  I  know  would 
have  cried,  "Bravo." 

180  The  most  curious  of  these  musical  works  of  his  early  youth  is 
a  Concerto  Dramatico  composto  dal  Sigr.  Dottore  Flamminio,  detto 
P ami r go  Secondo,  written  at  Frankfurt  in  the  autumn  of  1772.  (It 
may  be  found  on  pp.  77-82.  Vol.  Ill,  of  Der  Junge  Goethe,  Max 
Morris  edition,  1910,  Inselverlag.)  This  "concerto,"  the  word  being 
used  in  the  old  meaning  of  "cantata,"  was  composed  "for  per- 
formance in  the  Gemeinschaft  der  Heiligen,  at  Darmstadt."  It  is  a 
ludicrous  succession  of  pieces  which  are  given  musical  titles,  with 
expression  and  tempo  marks:  Tempo  giusto  C,  Allegretto  %  Arioso, 
Allegro  con  furia,  Cantabile,  Lamentabile ;  ein  wenig  geschwinder 
con  speranza,  Allegro  con  spirito,  Choral,  Capriccio  con  variazioni 
1,  2,  3;  Air  Francois,  Molto  andante,  Con  expressione,  and,  to  end 
up,  Presto  fugato  with  a  double  choir  imitating  in  burlesque  fashion 
the  sounds  of  the  instruments:  "Dum  du,  dum  du.  Dum  dim  di  di 
du  (bis)  Hohu!  Hohu!  .  .  . 

181  December  29,  1779. 

182  January  20,  1780. 

183  Abert  has  analysed  these  libretti  and  has  made  a  list  of  the 
many  and  varied  forms  of  aria,  ensemble,  and  chorus.  He  shows 
that  Goethe  had  a  remarkable  knowledge  of  every  kind  of  theatrical 
music  of  his  time,  French,  Italian  and  German. 

184  Meanwhile  Goethe  heard  at  Weimar  and  in  Italy  (September 
3,  1786 — June  18,  1788)  a  number  of  Italian  opere  buffe  by  Goldoni, 
Piccinni,  Salieri,  and  Cimarosa.  He  drank  them  in;  he  revised  and 
rearranged  his  old  Singspiele  in  the  light  of  his  new  experience  of 
the  Italian  stage.  He  even  intended  to  put  his  Scherz,  List  und 
Rache  into  Italian.  German  now  seemed  to  him  a  barbarische  Sprache 
to  set  to  music.  Ah!  had  he  only  known  twenty  years  ago  what  he 
knows  today.  He  would  have  made  a  study  of  Italian  so  as  to  write 

240  ^^ 

for  the  lyric  stage.  He  had  another  reason  for  his  preference  for 
Italian,  and  a  very  singular  one,  the  need  which  he  felt  for  the 
employment  of  a  foreign  language,  Italian  or  Latin,  to  represent 
remarkable  events  on  the  stage,  heroes  in  the  throes  of  love,  singing 
as  they  struggle  and  die  (Letters  of  1786).  About  this  time  he  set 
Kayser  to  work  on  the  music  of  Egmont,  and  wrote  for  him  an 
opera  the  subject  of  which  was  taken  from  the  recent  story  of 
Cagliostro,  and  the  affair  of  the  Queen's  Necklace.  His  first  sketch 
for  the  opera  was  in  Italian. 

185  Based  on  the  old  phrase  "saltare  comoediam,"  literally,  to 
"leap,"  comedy,  an  expression  dating  from  the  lines  when  come- 
dians were  jesters  (saltatores)  and  jumped  rather  than  walked. 

186  One  cannot  over-emphasize  the  importance  which  Goethe 
invariably  attached  to  moral  qualities  in  the  artists  whose  friendship 
he  sought  or  accepted,  though  this  has  always  been  denied  by  his 
critics.  He  persisted  in  this  attitude  in  spite  of  the  artistic  loss  which 
it  involved.  There  was  no  question  of  a  reasoned  choice  in  the 
matter;  it  was  a  vital  instinct. 

187  Kayser  produced  in  1777  a  collection  of  Lieder  {Gesange  mit 
Begleitung  des  Klaviers),  and  Goethe  also  had  his  friend's  Lieder 
published  in  several  volumes.  Bode  reproduces  some  examples  in  his 
book  on  Goethe  and  music.  These  Lieder  display  a  certain  lightness 
of  touch,  and  their  expression  is  apt  and  simple.  The  score  of 
Scherz,  List,  und  Rache  is  kept  at  the  Goethe  National  Museum 
at  Weimar.  Ferdinand  Hiller  and  Max  Friedlaender  have  spoken 
favourably  of  it. 

188  At  the  end  of  1789  another  project  of  his,  the  result  of  this 
same  devotion  to  Gluck,  which  Reichardt  shared  with  him,  was  a 
tragedy  set  to  music  with  choruses  in  the  old  classical  style,  Die 
Danaiden.  Goethe  was  working  on  this  idea  during  the  following 
ten  years. 

189  we  already  find  in  the  production  of  his  Proserpina,  in  1815, 
the  three  Norns,  the  three  Parcas  (comp.  Genast,  p.  134). 

1!,°  During  the  first  period  of  his  direction  of  the  Weimar  theatre 

=  241 

he  got  Reichardt  to  write  the  music  for  his  ballad  operas  Erwin, 
Claudine,  and  Jery.  He  had  his  Cagliostro  played  as  a  comedy  in 
1791  under  the  title  of  Der  Grosskophta;  he  would  have  made  an 
opera  of  it  had  not  he  lost  all  hope  of  seeing  it  put  on  the  stage. 
We  may  add  that  he  had  converted  his  theatre  at  Weimar  into  a 
little  model  stage  for  operetta,  and  produced  the  Italian  intermezzi 
(short  musical  plays).  He  brought  with  him  from  Italy  the  text  of 
twenty-three  opere  bujfe  by  Cimarosa,  Anfossi,  and  others,  and 
translated  several  of  them. 

191  All  the  fault  seems  to  have  been  Schiller's ;  he  was  quick- 
tempered and  very  easily  upset.  He  persuaded  Goethe  into  an 
insulting  attack  on  Reichardt  in  Die  Xenien.  Reichardt  never  lost 
his  fine  dignity,  never  for  a  moment  considered  that  these  affronts 
released  him  from  the  obligations  of  faithful  service  which  he 
owed  to  the  genius  and  the  person  of  Goethe. 

192  In  1820  again  Goethe  wrote  to  Zelter,  "I  feel  at  once  the 
identity  of  your  compositions  with  my  Lieder.  The  music  is  simply 
a  lifting  force,  like  the  gas  in  a  balloon.  With  other  composers  I 
have  always  to  examine  the  music  to  see  what  view  they  have  taken 
of  the  Lied  and  how  they  have  dealt  with  it." 

To  know  Zelter's  Lieder  is  therefore  a  matter  which  should  interest 
us  deeply:  through  them  we  may  realize  exactly  the  feelings  of 
Goethe.  For  this  reason  I  advise  the  reading  of  the  fine  Lied  of  the 
Harpist  in  With  elm  Meister,  "Wer  sich  der  Einsamkeit  ergiebt." 
It  is  a  model  of  noble,  simple  and  manly  emotion. 

193  There  are  few  stories  more  moving  than  the  passing,  almost 
at  the  same  time,  of  the  two  friends.  Goethe  died  on  March  22nd. 
Zelter,  who  had  written  him  yet  another  letter  on  that  very  day, 
lost  in  a  moment  all  his  powers  and  joy  of  life.  He  aged  ten  years 
in  a  single  day.  With  trembling  lips  he  said,  "I  have  lost  my  dearest 
friend  on  earth"  ("Ich  habe  mein  Liebstes  auf  Erden  verloren"). 
Again  he  said,  "I  am  like  a  widow  who  has  lost  her  man,  her  lord, 
the  provider  of  her  substance."  Early  in  May  he  felt  seriously  ill. 
Going  to  his  bedroom,  he  bowed  his  head  gravely  before  Goethe's 

242  = 

bust,  and  said,  "Your  Excellency  naturally  took  precedence  of  me, 
but  now  I  follow  you"  ("Excellenz  halten  natiirlich  den  Vortritt, 
aber  ich  folge  bald  nacb").  He  took  to  his  bed,  and  died  on  May 
15  th.  Who  shall  say  now  that  Goethe  could  not  love  and  inspire 

194  The  collection  of  Goethe's  Lieder,  composed  by  Zelter,  was 
published  in  1810-12  under  the  title  Samtliche  Lieder,  Balladen, 
und  Romanzen  in  four  volumes.  Reichardt  preceded  Zelter  with  his 
collection  of  Goethe's  Lieder  in  four  parts   (1809). 

195  prinCe  Radziwill  had  been  working  at  it  since  1810.  His  Faust, 
fragments  of  which  Goethe  heard  in  1811,  was  given  in  part  (two 
big  scenes)  in  May,  1819,  before  the  court  in  a  Berlin  palace;  a 
prince  played  Mephisto.  The  score  was  published  in  1834-35  and 
the  opera  was  performed  over  a  period  of  twenty  years.  Reichardt's 
collection  of  Goethe's  Lieder  (1809)  included,  among  some  re- 
markable Deklamationsstucke,  a  fragment  of  Faust,  part  of  the 
dialogue  between  Faust  and  Marguerite  in  the  garden. 

Even  quicker  was  Bettina,  who,  as  early  as  January,  1808,  was 
"drinking  in"  the  Faust  compositions.  She  wrote  Marguerite's  prayer, 
"Ach  neige,  du  Schmerzensreiche." 

196  Fourteen  years  later  (1828-29)  Eberwein,  at  long  last,  un- 
derstood. To  celebrate  Goethe's  eightieth  birthday  he  arranged  a 
performance  of  a  Faust  with  music;  this  was  given  from  time  to 
time  up  to  1870,  and  later.  Bode  quotes  several  fragments  in  his 
second  volume,  pp.  294-307.  They  have  no  great  value. 

197  It  is  to  be  observed  that  he  had  just  declined  to  write  a 
Samson  for  Zelter.  It  was  a  wrathful  refusal.  He  had  no  use,  he 
said,  for  Jews  on  the  stage,  particularly  for  Samson  with  "the  over- 
whelming and  bestial  passion  of  an  immensely  powerful  God-gifted 
hero  for  the  most  accursed  woman's  flesh  that  the  earth  ever  knew" 
("die  ganz  bestialische  Leidenschaft  eines  iiberkraftigen,  gottbe- 
gabten  Helden  zu  dem  verfiuchtesten  Luder  das  die  Erde  tragt"). 
He  knew  nothing  at  that  time  of  Handel's  masterly  picture  of  the 

=  243 

i9s  There  were  two  other  projects  of  the  same  period — a  fragment 
of  dialogue  with  chorus,  Der  Lowenstuhl  (1814),  which  has  a 
romantic  colouring,  and  a  Persian  subject  which  the  atmosphere  of 
the  Divan  suggested  to  him,  Feradeddin  and  Kolaila  (1816). 

199  I  have  already  noted  that  from  October,  1808,  Beethoven  was 
making  a  vain  search  for  some  one  to  adapt  Faust  for  the  stage. 

200  When  his  faithful  comedian,  Genast,  took  leave  of  him  shortly 
before  Goethe  himself  was  compelled  to  resign,  the  latter  sent  him 
these  two  lines  written  on  a  drawing: 

"Zur  Erinnrung  triiber  Tage 
Voll  Bemuhen,  voller  Plage" 

("In  memory  of  troublous  days,  days  of  sorrow,  days  of  anguish.") 

201  January  29,  1827. 

Eckermann  seems  to  have  found  it  odd  that  a  piece  "should 
begin  as  a  tragedy  and  finish  as  an  opera."  Goethe  replied:  "Yes, 
it  is  so.  But  such  is  my  will." 

202  N.B.  He  was  eighty  years  old  (1829). 

203  Here  we  must  recall  the  remarkable  spectacle  of  the  aged 
dreamer  as  he  appeared,  ten  days  before  his  death,  to  Bettina's 
young  son,  "He  now  seems  to  belong  to  another  world  rather  than 
to  this;  what  passes  here  below  is  utterly  lost  to  him  in  the  visions 
of  his  imagination."   (See  my  essay  on  Bettina  in  this  book.) 

204  Many  musicians  have  tried  their  hand.  But  not  one,  not  even 
Schumann,  who  attempted  the  final  scene  in  Faust  (in  heaven), 
had  the  twofold  genius  of  north  and  south  upon  which  Goethe 
insisted  and  which  he  himself  possessed. 

205  Lehrjahre,  IV.  2. 

206  I  might  have  added  "choruses."  One  of  the  questions  which 
occupied  him  most  was  that  of  the  chorus  in  tragedy.  The  chorus 
in  Greek  tragedy  had  a  powerful  attraction  for  him  as  it  had  in  the 
compositions  of  Handel  and  Gluck,  who  seemed  to  him,  rightly 
as  we  think,  the  heirs  of  the  great  choral  art  of  antiquity.  He  ex- 
perimented with  various  possibilities  in  his  poems  set  to  music, 


and  especially  in  the  second  Faust.  The  main  problem  was  the 
practical  realization,  upon  the  stage,  of  these  ideas.  The  Bride  of 
Messina,  at  the  Weimar  Theatre,  opened  a  field  of  experiment. 
Schiller  had  been  content  with  the  chorus  in  unison.  The  effect  was 
pitiful;  it  was  uninspired  and  confusing.  Goethe,  in  the  third  act, 
divided  the  singers  into  two  choruses,  and  used  solos,  duets,  trios, 
and  alternating  choruses,  with  crescendos  and  decrescendos,  with 
due  regard  to  the  registers  of  the  different  voices.  (In  the 
memoirs  of  Genast  will  be  found  some  notes  on  his  ingenious 

207  "Musik  war  sie  zu  nennen",  said  Genast  of  the  form  of 
declamation  on  which  he  insisted.  ("His  declamation  could  have 
been  described  as  music") 

208  jje  was  accused  of  "playing  chess  with  his  actors." 

209  To  all  who  are  interested  in  the  theatre  I  commend  the  recol- 
lections of  Genast,  "Aus  Weimars  klassischer  und  nachklassischer 
Zeit.  Erinnerungen  eines  alten  Schauspielers." 

210  I  have  already  emphasized  the  difference  in  this  matter  be- 
tween Goethe  and  Schiller.  The  latter  was  too  fond  of  speech  to 
music — that  is,  "melodrama."  Goethe  proclaimed  the  musical  inde- 
pendence of  the  spoken  word  in  poetry;  with  him  this  is  an  inde- 
pendent form  of  music  with  an  existence  of  its  own;  it  possesses 
within  itself  both  orchestra  and  song. 

211  Goethe's  declamation  of  poetry  was  in  fact  remarkable  for 
light  and  shade.  Pastor  Ewald  von  Offenbach  wrote  in  1799:  "He 
could  express  anything  he  wished  without  raising  or  lowering  his 
pitch  beyond  a  few  tones.  This  declamation  was  graded  in  infinitely 
small  intervals.  Between  C  and  D  it  would  have  been  possible  to 
distinguish  perhaps  as  many  as  sixteen  fractional  tones  which  could 
not  have  been  expressed  in  musical  notation.  The  declamation  was 
characterized  by  the  attack  or  entry,  the  melody,  the  transition  into 
another  melody,  and  the  return  to  the  tone  on  which  it  had  begun." 
This  sounds  like  a  description  of  the  first  movement  of  a  sonata  of 
the  time. 

=  245 

But  with  age  he  lost  this  art  or  sacrificed  it  voluntarily  to  the 
"delight  in  sonority"  {seine  Freude  am  Klange).  When  he  recited 
he  was  too  fond  of  letting  his  fine  bass  voice  resound  and  his  pro- 
duction was  "over-emphasized."  This  often  met  with  criticism.  He 
was  better  liked  in  his  reading  of  comic  passages,  and  Genast  avers 
— who  could  have  imagined  it? — that  he  made  an  inimitable  Falstaff. 
However,  in  conversation  he  always  maintained  a  "soft  and  measured 
tone"  (leise  und  gemessen) .  But  he  had  too  much  vigour  and  force, 
not  to  say  brutality,  in  his  make-up.  His  expression  and  his  acting 
were  at  times  so  violent  that  at  a  rehearsal  of  King  John  the  little 
actress  who  played  opposite  him — fainted  (Genast). 

21-  Music  in  Goethe's  poetry  is  a  subject  so  vast  and  so  profound 
that  a  whole  book  might  be  devoted  to  it.  Perhaps  some  day  I  shall 
return  to  the  matter.  H.  Abert  in  his  little  book  has  given  it  a  short 
but  effective  chapter,  "Das  Musikalische  in  Goethes  Lyrik."  He 
shows  how  powerful  was  the  influence  in  this  direction  which 
Herder  excercised  on  the  young  Goethe  at  Strasbourg  and  how 
Goethe's  genius  forthwith  evoked  the  melody  which  lay  hidden  in 
the  heart  of  his  poetic  emotion.  He  calls  attention  to  his  free  rhythm 
in  verse  and  in  prose  (Werther),  a  stream  of  "infinite  melody",  as 
it  were ;  to  his  passages  impregnated  with  actual  music,  to  his  great 
lyrical  monologues  in  musical  drama  with  their  recitativi  accom- 
pagnati,  their  arias,  and  their  torrential  rhythm,  as  in  the  Wanderers 
Sturmlied,  Schwager  Kronos,  and  Prometheus.  Then,  under  Italian 
influence,  Goethe  passes  from  the  free  recitative  to  the  arioso. 

Iphigenia  marks  the  pinnacle  of  the  watershed,  the  point  of  per- 
fection, where  Dionysus,  the  spirit  of  impulsive  flight,  is  tamed  to 
harmony  by  the  master  hand  of  Apollo.  On  the  further  slope  of 
life's  mountain  top,  music,  like  a  stream,  returns  to  its  river  bed.  The 
torrent  subsides,  the  stream  ripples  slowly,  restrained  by  the  banks 
which  ordered  will  and  understanding  have  ordained;  until,  in  the 
Wanderjahre,  all  that  is  left  is  a  distant  murmur,  faintly  echoed 
from  the  mind  which  encloses  it  as  with  a  rampart. 

213  To  this  scrutiny  we  owe  the  two  important  publications  of 

246  ^= 

Rheinhold  Steig  and  Fritz  Bergemann:  Bettinas  Leben  und  Brief  - 
wechsel  mit  Goethe,  1921  and  1927. 

214  But  in  the  family  papers  sold  last  year  Maximiliana  gave  the 
incorrect  date  1788  for  the  birth  of  Bettina.  This  mistake  of  three 
years,  which  has  been  unjustly  attributed  to  Bettina,  resulted  in  her 
sincere  belief  that  she  was  nineteen  and  not  twenty-two  years  old 
when  she  first  met  Goethe.  .  .  .  May  we  say  that  the  probable 
effect  of  this  illusion  was  that  she  was  always  younger  than  her  age? 

215  "Mein  erstes  Lesen  deiner  Bucher!  ich  verstand  sie  nicht." 
"My  first  reading  of  your  books.  I  didn't  understand  them"  (Letter 
from  Bettina  to  Goethe). 

216  She  has  not  only  sealed,  as  it  were,  with  the  world  "child," 
the  correspondence  with  Goethe  which  she  published,  Briefwechsel 
Goethes  mit  einem  Kinde.  She  used  it  also  in  her  first  letters,  "Euer 
Kind,  Dein  Herz  und  gut  Madchen."  Later,  in  the  course  of  her 
spiritual  affection  for  Schleiermacher,  she  called  herself  his  "child" 
also,  and  begged  for  his  fatherly  love.  In  Bettina's  soul,  in  all  purity 
of  heart,  the  idea  of  a  father  is  always  mingled  with  her  greatest 

217  She  reminded  Goethe  of  this  glorious  moment  in  her  letter 
of  July  30,  1808:  "When  at  last  I  found  you — was  it  a  dream? — 
Yes,  as  I  write  it  seems  a  wonderful  dream.  My  head  rested  upon 
your  shoulder,  I  slept  for  a  few  minutes  for  the  first  time  after 
four  or  five  sleepless  nights.  .  .  ." 

218  A  letter  from  Clemens  Brentano  to  Achim  von  Arnim,  in 
July,  1807,  gives  a  most  joyous  account  of  the  visit.  Clemens  saw 
the  ring,  a  fine  antique,  set  with  the  representation  of  a  woman 
veiling  herself.  He  had  no  idea,  at  that  time,  of  putting  a  bad  con- 
struction on  his  sister's  relations  with  the  old  poet.  He  was  more 
inclined  to  congratulate  her.  But  twenty-five  years  later  Clemens, 
then  an  old  man  himself,  and  a  bigot  also,  was  alarmed  at  the  idea 
of  Bettina  publishing  to  the  whole  of  Europe  the  story  of  her 
"shamelessness."  Lujo  Brentano  recently  published  {"Der  jugend- 
liche  und  der  gealterte  Clemens  Brentano  fiber  Bettina  und  Goethe." 

=  247 

Sonderabdruck  aus  dem  ]ahrbuch  des  freien  Deutschen  Hochstijts. 
Frankfurt,  1929)  the  lettet  of  horrified  prudery  which  he  wrote 
June  17,  1834,  to  his  sister,  after  reading  the  proofs  of  the  first 
pages  of  "Goethe's  Letters  to  a  Child."  The  tone  of  the  letter  displays 
an  unconscious  hypocrisy  which  would  be  disgusting  if  it  were  not 
absurd.  He  deplores  that  every  man  in  Europe  is  to  be  told  that 
Bettina  cannot  sit  in  well-brought  up  fashion  on  a  sofa,  and  that, 
most  improperly,  she  sat  on  the  knees  of  a  man  who  had  not  the 
decency  to  respect  the  good  name  of  a  poor  foolish  girl.  .  .  .  The 
monument  to  Goethe  which  she  is  having  put  up  reminds  one  of 
the  pyramids  which  cost  Rhodopis  her  honour.  What  is  to  happen 
to  her  children?  Her  sons  run  the  risk  of  insults  leading  to  duels. 
Her  daughters  may  be  depraved  as  the  result  of  the  incident  or  be 
led  to  scorn  their  mother.  .  .  .  This  man,  righteous  to  the  point 
of  sanctity,  imposes  on  his  sister  this  act  of  penitence,  that  she 
should  tear  from  the  volume  the  shameless  page  and  destroy  it.  .  .  . 
"Through  the  reading  of  such  pages  are  worthy  souls  made  to 
stumble.  ..."  And  he  begged  her  for  the  future  to  send  him  all 
the  drafts  for  revision  before  having  them  printed. 

Bettina  replied  in  trenchant  fashion,  with  a  disdainful  hauteur 
but  in  an  affectionate  tone.  She  has  nothing  to  hide.  What  is  there 
to  hide?  She  acted  in  all  innocence,  and  it  was  the  happiest  hour 
of  her  life;  everything  she  has  been,  everything  she  has  done  since, 
she  owes  to  the  ecstasy  of  that  moment,  the  "ersten  erquickenden 
paradiesischen  Schlaf  (the  first,  refreshing,  heavenly  sleep)."  .  .  . 
What  right  have  others  to  claim  control  over  her?  In  all  the  diffi- 
cult trials  of  life  they  left  her  alone ;  she  has  had  no  one  to  depend 
upon  and  no  one  troubled  himself  about  her.  Who  now  gives  them 
the  right  to  assume  the  role  of  guardians  of  morality?  As  for  her 
children,  she  has  no  cause  for  concern.  If  they  were  to  discover 
any  evil  in  an  affair  so  simple  and  innocent,  they  would  not  be  her 
children;  she  would  refuse  to  recognize  them.  Thank  God,  she 
means  to  preserve  them  from  such  bigotry  and  hypocrisy.  And  she 
calls  her  brother  an  "old  nightcap"   (alte  Schlaf  mutze) . 

248  ^= 

Clemens,  much  annoyed,  replied  in  the  "style  of  Chanaan."*  He 
condoled,  in  hypocritical  terms,  with  his  "poor"  sister,  and  managed 
very  cleverly  to  insert  in  his  letter  the  most  offensive  allusions  under 
the  cloak  of  kindness.  After  having  compared  her  to  a  naked 
Phryne,  he  cruelly  reminded  her  of  Arnim,  "the  noble  father  whom 
she  had  forgotten,"  and  the  sorrow  which  the  children  must  feel. 
Then  came  disparaging  remarks  on  Goethe,  with  whom  Germany 
will  now  have  nothing  to  do;  nobody  buys  his  works,  and  in 
fact,  "the  enthusiasm  for  him  has  never  been  genuine."  Then  he 
referred  again  to  "the  poor  good  Arnim"  .  .  .  and  "that  poor, 
silly,  godless  Bettina.  ..." 

But  Bettina  refuted  vehemently  the  allusion  to  her  "poverty," 
which  was  all  too  real,  and  to  the  "pity"  which  the  bigoted  brother 
offered  her,  with  the  poisoned  flowers  of  his  eloquence.  We  see  her 
as  she  stands,  proudly  aloof,  with  her  Goethe  and  her  God. 

219  "You  are  my  daughter.  May  my  son  be  a  brother  to  you.  .  .  . 
I  am  sure  that  he  loves  you." 

220  The  "thou"  made  its  first  timid  appearance  at  the  end  of  the 
letter  of  October  6,  1807,  to  which  I  have  already  referred.  It  is 
found  at  the  end  where  the  "thou"  and  the  "you"  are  mixed  up  in 
childish  fashion:  "Euer  Kind,  Dein  Herz  und  gut  Madchen,  das 
den  Gothe  gar  zu  lieb,  allein  ilber  alles  lieb  hat,  und  sich  mit  seinem 
Andenken  uber  alles  trosten  kann"  ("Your  child,  thy  heart,  thy 
little  girl  who  loves  Goethe  very,  very  much,  loves  him  only  and 
loves  him  above  all  else  and  whose  memory  can  console  her  in 
everything").  But  the  "thou"  only  appears  regularly  with  the  letters 
of  December,  1807. 

221  We  find  it  for  the  first  time  on  February  22,  1809. 

222  "The  day  when  I  left  you,  with  a  kiss — it  was  not  the  kiss 
which  parted  us! — I  stayed  for  a  whole  hour  alone  in  the  next  room, 
the  room  with  the  piano,  and  sat  on  the  floor  in  a  corner.  .  .  .  You 
were  there,   too,   quite   near  me  and  you  never  knew  it.  ...  I 

*  Translator^  Note. — Chanaan,  the  son  of  Shem,  cursed  by  Noah. 


laughed  and  cried  at  the  same  time.  ..."    (beginning  of  January, 

-~3  A  month  before  she  had  told  him  of  Arnim's  love  for 
her.  .  .  .  "Poor"  Arnim  (I  find  myself  writing  like  her  brother 
Clemens!  .  .  .  ) 

224  She  had  Goethe's  son  with  her  at  Frankfurt  in  April,  1808, 
and  treated  him  tenderly. 

225  November  3,  1809- 

226  "I  cannot  fight  against  you,  dear  Bettina.  You  are  the  best  of 
all  my  friends,  in  what  you  write,  in  your  acts  of  kindness,  in  your 
gifts,  and  in  the  love  and  delight  which  you  bring  me.  I  cannot, 
therefore,  do  otherwise  than  abandon  myself  to  the  joy  which  is 
mine,  and  give  you  in  return  all  my  love,  even  if  I  must  do  so  in 

227  She  had,  however,  written  to  him  in  March  or  April  (see  her 
letter  of  July  6th). 

228  And,  on  October  25  th  of  the  same  year,  "all  your  dear  pages, 
which  reached  me  one  after  the  other."  Not  one  of  them  has  come 
down  to  us. 

229  Auction  Catalogue  148.  Karl  Ernst  Henrici,  Berlin.  (February 
27-28,  1929.)  No.  42,  p.  16. 

230 1  am  not  referring  to  the  other  sacrifice,  the  one  which 
Bettina  made.  She  had  intended  to  incorporate  these  beautiful 
reminiscences  in  a  book  which  she  would  write.  But  to  her  loving 
heart  it  seemed  only  a  small  gift. 

231  October  18,   1810. 

232  November  4,  1810. 

233  "\Y/hat  would  Goethe  have  thought,  if  he  could  have  looked 
over  Bettina's  shoulder  as  she  wrote  down  her  convictions,  and  if  he 
could  have  read  the  draft  (probably  dating  from  1826)  in  which 
she  compared  herself  to  "a  spider  weaving  her  net  round  Goethe, 
ensnaring  him  softly,  softly.  .  .  ."  "And  he  will  not  be  able  to 
escape!"    (Auction  Catalogue  148.  K.  E.  Henrici.) 

234  Letter  to  Moritz  Carriere.  March  26,  1849. 

250  ^^ 

235  In  Goethes  Briefivechsel  mit  einem  Kinde  (1835  Edition), 
and  the  book  of  1927  by  Fritz  Bergemann  which  has  been  quoted 
(p.  206)  there  is  a  drawing  of  Bettina's  suggested  monument.  It  is 
in  the  neo-antique  style  of  Thorwaldsen,  which  Goethe  liked — only 
too  much,  and  its  academic  grandeur  possesses  no  feature  which 
would  appeal  to  us  were  it  not  for  a  little  detail,  a  very  womanly 
one,  which  sheds  a  glow  of  love  on  the  cold  marble:  it  is  the  little 
Psyche,  symbolizing  Bettina  in  the  monument,  who  touches  with 
her  fingers  the  strings  of  the  huge  lyre  of  the  impassive  giant  and 
puts  her  little  bare  foot  on  the  bare  foot  of  Goethe. 

236  This  was  a  last  profession  of  faith  in  individualism:  "Let 
everyone  sweep  in  front  of  his  own  door,  and  the  whole  city  will 
be  clean  (Ein  jeder  kehre  vor  seiner  Thiir — und  rein  ist  jedes 
Stadtquartier) ." 

237  The  young  man  had  been  deeply  moved  by  his  appearance. 
"He  now  seems  to  belong  to  another  world  rather  than  to  this; 
what  passes  here  below  (das  Irdische)  is  utterly  lost  to  him  in 
the  visions  of  his  imagination." 

238  All  the  passages  which  I  have  quoted  from  her  letters  in 
these  essays  are  taken  from  the  authentic  correspondence  which  has 
been  compared  with  the  originals. 

239  Max  Friedlaender  published  a  selection  of  her  compositions  as 
a  supplement  to  Goethes  Briefivechsel  mit  einem  Kinde,  Propylaen 
Verlag,  1920. 

Among  the  manuscripts  sold  in  1929  was  a  Kompositionsbuch 
of  about  a  hundred  pages,  containing  her  compositions  to  Lieder  by 
Goethe,  Arnim,  and  JHolderlin,  whose  genius  she  was  one  of  the 
first  to  recognize.  In  this  book  she  also  wrote  some  of  her  thoughts, 
among  others,  "On  the  importance  of  the  pause  in  music."  She  had 
studied  counterpoint  and  fugue.  Music  holds  an  important  place 
in  her  correspondence  which  would  be  worth  a  special  study,  for 
Bettina's  intuitions,  though  she  groped  in  the  dark,  delve  deeply 
at  times.  At  the  end  of  this  essay  I  am  giving  the  translation  of 

=  251 

.i  strange  letter  to  Goethe,  which  is,  as  it  were,  a  monologue  on 

240  The  Grand  Duke  of  Saxe-Weimar,  and  the  Prince  of 

•mi  "\v/e  d0  n0t  iet  flies  defile  pure  gold,"  he  wrote  to  her. 

MS  "The  king  knows  that  I  share  your  contempt  for  the  censor- 
ship and  your  aversion  to  it."  Humboldt's  letter  to  Bettina.  Auction 
Catalogue  148.  Henrici  No.  81. 

243  He  was  released,  became  Minister  of  Finance  during  the 
Swabian  revolution,  and  was  later  again  sentenced  to  death. 

244  In  1848  we  find  him  again  as  one  of  the  leaders  of  the  new 
Polish  revolution. 

245  Auction  Catalogue  148.  Henrici  No.  16. 

240  It  often  happened  that  these  men,  whose  lives  she  had  saved, 
did  not  inspire  her  sympathy  at  all.  One  of  them  was  Kinkel.  In 
one  of  her  letters  (1849)  she  expresses  her  disgust  for  him  in 
pitiless  terms;  she  speaks  of  his  boastfulness,  his  presumption,  his 
foolish  vanity,  and  his  noisiness.  .  .  .  "Truly,  I  have  not  done  it 
for  his  sake!  I  did  it  because  I  had  to  do  it.  I  did  it  for  my  own 
sake.  But  as  a  result,  everyone  has  thrown  stones  at  me"  (Ibid. 
No.  111). 

247  Ibid.  No.  119. 

248  The  collection  of  letters  sold  included  forty-two  written  to  the 
Hungarian  poet  Kertbeny.  They  discuss  ardently  the  struggles  for 
Hungarian  independence.  Kertbeny  sent  her,  in  1849,  a  flower 
plucked  just  before  his  execution  by  a  man  condemned  to  death. 

249  Memoirs  of  Mme.  Irene  Forbes-Mosse. 

250  Her  only  personal  meeting  with  King  Friedrich  William  IV 
appears  to  have  been  in  April,  1845,  a  long  audience  at  the  Mon- 
bijou  palace  on  the  subject  of  her  proteges. 

251  Comp.  Goethe  the  Musician,  p.  126. 

252  The  following  seems  still  more  incredible.  Herklots,  a  musician 
well  known  in  northern  Germany,  in  1798  adapted  the  melody  of 
the  Marseillaise  to  a  song  in  honour  of  the  king  of  Prussia.  I  am 

252  ^= 

indebted  to  Professor  Max  Friedlaender  for  reminding  me  of  this 
fact  which  Reichardt  mentioned. 

253  Comp.  Goethe  the  musician,  p.  126. 

254  It  was  in  1830  that  there  appeared  in  northern  Germany  a 
Liederbuch  fur  deutsche  Krieger  und  deutsches  Volk  by  the  school 
master  Carl  Weitershausen,  who  is  careful  to  observe  that  in  one  of 
the  songs  of  victory  the  melody  of  the  Marseillaise  seems  to  have 
been  borrowed  (noted  by  Max  Friedlaender). 

255  See  p.  28  of  "Goethe  and  Beethoven"  I,  and  p.  181  of  the 
essay  on  Bettina. 

The  letter  written  to  Goethe  is  dated  from  Berlin,  Christmas, 
1810  (pp.  333-334  of  Bettinas  Leben  und  Briefwechsel  mit  Goethe, 
published  by  Fritz  Bergemann,  1927,  Insel-Verlag) . 

It  is  not  without  hesitation  that  I  hazard  a  free  translation  of  this 
extraordinary  monologue;  it  is  as  if  one  witnessed,  in  the  dead 
watches  of  the  night,  the  birth  of  a  fevered  strain  of  thought.  The 
German  historians  and  philologists  themselves,  who  have  made  a 
study  of  Bettina' s  writings,  admit  their  doubt  as  to  the  meaning  of 
certain  phrases.  Fortunately  the  paraphrase  which  Bettina  made  in 
her  Goethes  Briefwechsel  mit  einem  Kinde  in  1835  clears  up 
several  passages.  Dare  I  maintain  that  the  meaning  of  the  letter, 
speaking  generally,  seems  clear  to  me?  The  interest  which  I  take 
in  it  encourages  me  to  hope  that  many  of  my  readers  who  are 
students  of  Beethoven  will  also  find  it  clear.  Obscured  by  the 
awkward  and  tentative  expressions,  there  is  to  be  found  a  lively 
and  profound  musical  intuition ;  we  may  glean  from  Bettina  a  better 
understanding  of  Beethoven's  soul  than  she  herself  possessed. 

I  have  placed  in  brackets  the  passages  taken  from  Bettina's  para- 
phrase of  1835. 

250  when  Bettina  uses  the  word  "magic"  she  means  "the  outcome 
of  genius." 

257  ["Zelter,  among  others,  will  never  allow  anything  to  pass 
which  he  does  not  fully  understand."] 

=  253 

258  Comp.  Goethe's  words  to  Humboldt,  "Music  is  purely  and 
simply  irrational  {die  rente  Unvernunft)  :  the  written  word  is  con- 
cerned with  reason  and  with  nothing  else." 

259  "Auf  die  einzelnen  Werkzeuge  {Alenschen)  ("on  isolated 
instruments,  that  is,  men")  I  interpret  this  as  the  rhythmic  action 
and  reaction  which  take  place  between  the  genius  and  the  human 
race,  one  depending  upon  the  other.  Genius  must  have  a  substance 
in  which  to  implant  life. 

260  "\yje  das  Herz  gebaut  ist"  ("according  to  the  structure  of 
each  heart").  My  reading  of  the  paragraph  is  this.  In  the  ages 
which  are  past  music  submitted  to  definite  intellectual  rules.  Now- 
adays the  subjectivity  of  the  sentiment  reigns  supreme  and  genius 
is  the  master.  But  who  can  claim  that  these  obscure  forces  will 
always  be  directed  to  the  noblest  end? 

26i  ^'Zelter  muss  vermeiden,  dem  Beethoven  gegenuberzustehen."~\ 
("Zelter  must  be  careful  not  to  fall  foul  of  Beethoven"). 
™"Wie  em  Holzbock." 

263  Literally  "wenn  er  dies  will." 

264  "Wenn  er  sich  nicht  loss  macht  von  den  Handiverkern." 

265  "Uhrwerk."  In  Bettina's  famous  letter  of  July  1810,  where 
she  spoke  for  the  first  time  to  Goethe  of  Beethoven,  this  is  the 
word  which  she  employs  to  describe  the  whole  of  human  effort  as 
opposed  to  the  one  man  Beethoven,  the  only  untrammelled  creator. 
"Just  as  the  mechanism  of  a  clock  {Uhrwerk)  centres  upon  an  axis, 
so  does  every  form  of  human  activity  centre  upon  him.  He  alone  of 
himself  brings  to  birth."  .  .  .  Comp.  p.  18. 

266  Let  us  make  a  resume  of  this  monologue  which  is  charged 
with  Beethoven's  feeling,  and  with  revolt  against  the  school  of 
thought  which  held  him  in  contempt. 

Bettina  pleads  the  cause  of  the  irrational  in  art,  and,  above  all, 
in  music.  She  sets  the  genius  who  expresses  freely  the  forces  within 
him  against  the  cold  reasoners,  the  scholars  who  employ  borrowed 
formulas.  Music,  if  it  would  live,  must  release  itself  from  the 
mechanical  spirit,  must  discover  the  freedom  of  the  will,  the  springs 

254  = 

of  the  vital  forces.  There  is  but  one  road  by  which  it  may  be 
reached — meditation,  concentration,  inspiration.  Beethoven  has  re- 
vealed to  her  the  direct  path. 

We  should  compare  these  ideas  with  those  which  her  visit  to 
Beethoven  inspired  during  the  previous  spring  according  to  the 
letters  which  I  quoted  early  in  my  first  essay.  ("Goethe  and 
Beethoven"  Chapter  I.)  It  is  Beethoven's  harvest;  he  himself  was 
the  sower. 







MAY  n  9  '5 



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sr?    s 


Library  Bureau  Cat.  no.  1137 

3  5002  00393  8458 

Rolland.  Rom.nn 
Goethe  and  Beethoven, 

ML    410     . B4    R723 
Rolland,      Remain,      1866 
Goethe    and    Beethoven